Vivid Sydney 2021 program unveiled

Vivid-Sydney-2021-Our-Connected-City-Mandylights-photo-by-Destination-NSWVivid Sydney 2021 will transform the Harbour City into an extraordinary playground of the unexpected from Friday 6 August to Saturday 28 August, with more than 200 events celebrating Sydney’s diversity, resilience, Aboriginal culture and vibrant creative community.

“Through revealing the vibrancy of the full Vivid Sydney 2021 program, there is no doubt this much-loved festival will provide everyone with a multitude of reasons to experience Sydney after dark,” said Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres.

“Now in its 12th year, Vivid Sydney 2021 will be unlike anything you’ve seen before, transforming five locations across the CBD with unexpected light-art installations and projections, eclectic music performances and thought-provoking talks. The Vivid Sydney we know and love will be back, from the creativity and innovation to interactivity and excitement.

“Australians have a huge appetite for adventure, and I encourage everyone around the country and in New Zealand, to start planning their visit to Vivid Sydney now,” said Minister Ayres.

Vivid Sydney is owned, managed and produced by the NSW Government through Destination NSW, and in 2019 attracted 2.4 million attendees delivering $172 million in visitor expenditure to the NSW economy.

In 2021, the ideas are big, bright, bold and set to work their magic across the city for 23 days and nights. The festival will ignite five locations in 2021, with Circular Quay, The Rocks, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour and Luna Park Sydney all showcasing a mesmerising kaleidoscope of light artworks to wow visitors and locals alike.

“Vivid Sydney is all about pushing boundaries and transporting festival-goers to a playground of the unexpected,” said Festival Director Gill Minervini. “This year’s program delivers fresh and engaging content, bringing feelings of joy, wonder, discovery, hope and excitement to all who absorb it.”

“This year the program reveals an incredibly rich and diverse line-up across our ever-evolving cultural landscape including Australia’s rich Aboriginal heritage, Sydney’s vibrant LGBTQI+ culture, and the incredible group of strong, empowered women who continue to ensure Vivid Sydney remains relevant globally,” said Minervini.

Visitors will connect with powerful stories of resilience through 50 immersive and kinetic light installations and projection artworks all designed to explore and showcase the power of quiet strength.

“There’s always meaning to a work, and that’s one of the greatest things about Vivid Sydney,” said Vivid Light Curator Lucy Keeler. “With the huge diversity of artists represented, you’re getting a real mix of personal views and beliefs.”

“Vivid Sydney’s light art collection demonstrates artists exploring the zeitgeist. This year a response to the themes of isolation, escapism and a need for greater human connection is prevalent.”

Revealing the various artistic interpretations of the resilience theme, the spectacular Light Walk will host the works of 59 light collaborators and 129 light artists from 19 countries, with street installations reshaping old sights and giving never-before-lit buildings a new sparkle in the city skyline.

Celebrating our rich Indigenous culture, the Sails of the Sydney Opera House will be transformed into an impressive new digital rendition of an iconic Martu painting.

The new projection, Yarrkalpa – Hunting Ground, 2021 by the Martu Artists and Curiious with soundtrack by Electric Fields and Martu Artists (inspired by Yarrkalpa – Always Walking Country 2014), is inspired by the vibrant collective painting, Yarrkalpa- Hunting Ground, Parnngurr Area, 2013 created by the Martu Artists of the Pilbara region, and the award-winning Yarrkalpa – Always Walking Country (2014) artwork by Martu/Wallworth/Anohni.

Shard is another beautiful First Nations artwork providing a portal into a world unknown. Featuring LED screen technology, this mind-bending collaboration between young Aboriginal dancers and light artists will challenge what we know about language.

Mandylights’ Our Connected City will shine new light on the city’s landmarks, with over 200 searchlights beaming across the Harbour, CBD buildings and the Cahill Expressway, while also linking the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in riotous colour.

Between them, at Circular Quay, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia will morph into a kinetic, visual journey of the work of acclaimed Australian artist Helen Eager, who has collaborated with artists Rico and Julian Reinhold from H0rse, to create New York Sunday.

In a festival-first, the waters of Cockle Bay in Darling Harbour will come alive with a 100m floating Light Walk incorporating the large-scale artwork Ephemeral. Produced by Sydney’s own Atelier Sisu, visitors are invited to walk under more than 200 giant, bubble-like spheres hovering eight-metres in the air.

Various installations will also explore the wonders of our natural world. Patterns in Nature – a large-scale installation based around the elements of earth, fire, water and air – will weave its spell at First Fleet Park. Created by University of Technology Sydney design students as part of their Vivid School course in 2020, the work pays homage to Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden, its passion for flora conservation and its support for cutting-edge botanical science.

Symbiosis by Dirty Monitor, located in the heritage-listed roadway of The Argyle Cut, is a new creation specially designed for Vivid Sydney. Through animated 3D paintings and contemplative and poetic music, the work transports viewers into a universe where the human species merges with various living organisms to give birth to new forms of life.

Plus, in a life-affirming light installation set to spark joy in every visitor, Holi is the biggest interactive projection in Vivid Sydney’s history. Set on the Hickson Road Wall near the Park Hyatt, the colourful piece is based on the notion of sharing and of celebrating life and happiness and will invite visitors to leave their own mark on the wall using special effects.

Vivid Ideas 2021 celebrates all the Mavericks & Misfits among us – the folks who think differently, speak out, and shake things up. With 90 intriguing talks and workshops on offer, Vivid Ideas embraces the quirks and kinks of our humanity and starts conversations that continue long after the festival has ended.

Headlining the Game Changers program at the Sydney Town Hall, internationally renowned actor, star of The Good Place and body positivity advocate, Jameela Jamil will explore the need for greater diversity and inclusion in media.

In an exclusive live streamed talk with Jamila Rizvi, Jameela will reveal how her podcast and platform I-weigh is a place for imperfection and self-acceptance, plus what is it like to be a ‘feminist in training’.

Be inspired as actor, comedian and LGBTQIA+ advocate Magda Szubanski compares notes with award-winning author Julia Baird on building resilience and the role of nature and the arts in healing. Plus, Aussie hip hop pioneer and author Briggs, alongside comedian and YouTube isolation cooking champion Nat’s What I Reckon, will talk about the role of music in supporting mental health and shaping identity.

At the Australian Museum, leading author Sarah Wilson and renowned scientist Dr Norman Swan will talk misinformation and conspiracy theories, while Sandra Pankhurst – subject of the award-winning book, The Trauma Cleaner – will discuss being an outlier, reinvention and the need for empathy in the modern world.

Meanwhile as part of the New Horizons Program, topics such as Sects, Lies and Cults, the Future of Drugs, Men and Mental Health will be at the forefront. Craig Silvey, author of Honeybee, will grace the stage – his only Sydney appearance – in discussion with Glace Chase, playwright of Sydney Theatre Company’s Triple X. The two will delve deep and unpack gender fluidity – bring your open mind.

This year’s Vivid Ideas Exchange will see over 60 events hosted at its new home – The Great Hall at The University of Technology Sydney – with talks, seminars, film screenings and special events designed to spark debate amongst the creative community.

“In an age threatened by groupthink and conformity, the rise of disinformation and a growing discomfort with dissent and ‘cancel culture’, it’s never been more pertinent to celebrate the mavericks and misfits of the world,” said Vivid Ideas Curator Tory Loudon. “We want to embrace the quirks and kinks in society and inspire others to be brave and outspoken.”

Come and join our fun-filled nights across the city shining a light on the next generation of creative outliers who think outside the box. In the Unexpected and Unorthodox series – there are plenty of free nights that fuse art, ideas, fashion and music.

Reinvigorating Sydney’s live music industry as it rebuilds, Vivid Music 2021 will flip the script on traditional performance, with more than 50 live shows held in surprising venues to offer one-of-a-kind experiences. In fact, Hyde Park Barracks, The Calyx – Royal Botanic Garden, Luna Park, The Bearded Tit and Parliament House will all pull back the curtains to host musical performances.

Highlights include the Heaps Gay: Kween’s Ball at Luna Park – a technicolour showcase of emerging and established musicians, featuring dark-pop darling Mia Rodriguez. Two stages will host over 20 acts while party people let loose on a night of fancy dress, cheeky fun and multidisciplinary art.

Hyde Park Barracks will be the atmospheric backdrop for El Gran Mono vs The Inner West Disco Machine – a day to night dance party celebrating the sounds of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the roots of sound system culture in these regions.

Beamed out through two of the most incredible sound systems in the Southern Hemisphere, the dance floor will pulse as the city’s most loved DJs, MCs, dancers and live acts fly the flag for Reggae, Dancehall, Cumbia, Salsa Dura, and more.

In the city’s Eveleigh urban cultural precinct, Carriageworks will present its seventh Vivid Music program, bringing together hip-hop artists and rock/punk bands including King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard in an Australian exclusive. Akosia, Jesswar, Tropical F#ck Storm, BARKAA and ARIA Award-winning punk rock band Amyl and the Sniffers will also enliven audiences.

Also in Eveleigh, at Blacksmiths Bay, reigning underground queen Betty Grumble will perform her adults-only cabaret show, Enemies of Grooviness Eat S*it, a funny, filthy, deeply felt exploration of pleasure. She’ll be joined by NECTAR and TEMPER, as well as an extensive line-up of DJs.

On the neo-soul and R&B end of the musical spectrum, Papua New Guinea-born singer-songwriter Ngaiire will bring her signature sounds to Parliament House. Blending complex and emotional lyrics with flamboyant costumes, renowned vocals and big pop sounds, Ngaiire’s musical identity crosses genre and artforms effortlessly.

This year will also see the return of Vivid Music’s X|CELERATE program. A proud partnership between Vivid Music and the City of Sydney, this grant program supports small-to-medium venues and emerging producers, promoters and artists working within the City of Sydney area to produce an exclusive event or program for Vivid Music.

“Vivid Music is remaking the rules of engagement and continues to push the boundaries, fostering diversity, discovery and celebrating Sydney’s nightlife on a world stage,” said Vivid Music Curator Stephen Ferris.

“This year’s line-up is a musical smorgasbord spanning the full spectrum of music with everything from hip hop to electronica, jazz to funk, Indie Rock to DJs and everything in between, providing both venues and artists a platform to be heard, seen and experienced by new audiences.”

Curated by the Sydney Opera House’s Head of Contemporary Music Ben Marshall, Vivid LIVE will transform the world-famous building inside and out, celebrating artists at the cutting edge of their genres, with seven Australian exclusives and three world premieres.

Zambian-born singer, poet and visual artist, Sampa Tembo -better known as Sampa The Great – will debut her long-awaited new show An Afro Future, performing the four-time ARIA award-winning debut album The Return with her epic band, dancers, singers and special guests Mwanjé and KYE.

Multi-faceted African-Australian rock-star, rapper, singer and producer BLESSED will present Diaspora, a curated evening with appearances by B Wise, Maina Doe and Manu Crooks. ARIA Award-winning duo Flight Facilities will light up the Northern Broadwalk with a feel-good party under the stars, plus Golden Features will be joined by Australian gender-bending dance duo, Hermitude. Don’t miss legendary Sydney queer underground institution Club Kooky taking over the outdoor stage with a secret line-up.

In the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Gareth Liddiard, Jim White and Chris Abrahams will perform together as Springtime, playing highlights from their forthcoming debut album. Meanwhile, local collective Astral People have curated a stellar line-up for a decade-defining outdoor weekender on the Broadwalk featuring Hiatus Kaiyote, Genesis Owusu, Cashmere Cat, Milan Ring and more in an Australian exclusive that celebrates their 10th birthday.

Vivid Live Studio Parties also return in 2021 with Future Classic, Picnic and Mad Racket. There will also be performances in the Studio from Low Life, RVG and Methyl Ethel.

For the first time, the Up Late Series will be hosted at Sydney’s renowned cultural institutions, offering a mix of music and ideas across unorthodox late-night talks, DJs, performances and art. Festival-goers can expect to be challenged with boundary-pushing discussions on sexuality, queer culture, Indigenous culture, fashion, self-identity and agitators in society at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Australian Museum, Powerhouse Museum and the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Vivid Sydney 2021 runs Friday 6 August to Saturday 28 August. For more information and full program, visit: for details. Checkout a preview here!

Image: Mandylights, Our Connected City – photo courtesy of Destination NSW