Vivid Sydney 2023 lights up its greatest festival yet

Vivid Sydney has kicked off its 13th year with a spectacular opening night that included a powerful Welcome to Country, fireworks, beams across the harbour, drones and a very poignant Lighting of the Sails at the Sydney Opera House.

The Welcome to Country curated by Vivid Sydney’s First Nations Advisor, Rhoda Roberts AO – First Light – incorporated a call-in country performance from artists representing many First Nations across different language groups including Yothu Yindi, Tenzin Choegyal, Chantel Cofie, and African drum and dance ensemble Wontanara.

This special ceremony marked the official opening of Vivid Sydney and featured a surprise drone show by Australian Traffic Network to count down the seconds to when the night sky above Sydney’s glittering harbour, iconic landmarks and skyline were illuminated by explosions of technicolour brilliance. Simultaneously, the Sydney Opera House’s sails were illuminated to feature the artworks of the late great Australian artist John Olsen.

Australia’s largest event and the pioneer of light-based art and culture festivals in the Asia-Pacific will run for the next 23 days. The festival will feature more than 300 activations and events along with the world’s most innovative artists, talented musicians and thought leaders as part of its 2023 line-up, whose theme this year, ‘Vivid Sydney, Naturally,’ is inspired by the master of all creators, Mother Nature.

Vivid Sydney 2023 Cockle Bay Elemental Destination NSWMinister for Jobs and Tourism John Graham said Vivid Sydney was much more than a light festival and has expanded into a world class program shining a light on all cultural aspects of the city and this year we are proud to once again host world leading creative talent.

“Fourteen years ago Vivid Sydney launched for the first time. Vivid Sydney was a chance to be mesmerised by light shows, music and a cultural story about this place,” said Mr Graham.

“This festival, now the largest in Australia, was ahead of its time. In that first year, an incredible 225,000 people came to see the show. Last year, 2.6 million people experienced Vivid Sydney.”

“I am looking forward especially to Vivid Music – seeing our venues come alive with some incredible artists – it is one of the best programs to date. This year, we add Vivid Food- a smorgasbord of tasting and dining events building on one of Sydney’s great strengths, its food and beverage culture.”

“Above all – between the lights, the music, the ideas, the food – I hope you enjoy what is at the heart of this festival – Australia’s biggest – a chance to celebrate together as a community,” said Mr Graham.

Vivid Sydney Festival Director Gill Minervini said Vivid Sydney 2023 was the biggest program in the festival’s history and the opening night was just a taste of what’s to come over the 23 nights.

“Vivid Sydney is the original festival of light, art and culture. This year is the 13th time it has been staged and tonight’s spectacular opening is representative of a festival that has come of age and evolved to meet the needs of its audience in 2023,” said Ms Minervini.

“We are truly proud of this year’s program. We have raised the bar on the size and scale of the events and activated new parts of the city. Our line-up features more diverse talent across more industries. There are world-firsts and festival-firsts, and both free and ticketed events to make the festival accessible to everyone.

“I think tonight has shown why audiences should be prepared to be blown away by the calibre of talent this year and a program that has been inspired by the beauty and diversity of nature. You do not want to miss Vivid Sydney 2023!” said Ms Minervini.

Staged across Sydney’s city centre, Vivid Sydney festival locations include Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House, The Rocks, Walsh Bay, Barangaroo, King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour, Darling Quarter, Darling Square, The Goods Line, Central Station, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Wynyard Tunnels, Carriageworks, Taronga Zoo and more.

When the sun sets, Sydney will transform with more than 57 lustrous light installations, 3D projection artworks and ticketed events for visitors to lose themselves in the hypnotising wonderland of light and colour.

Vivid Sydney has partnered with Cinewav, enabling visitors to listen to the soundtracks to select projection artworks wherever they are on the Light Walk.

Lighting of the Sails at the Sydney Opera House will see the vibrant works of one of Australia’s most famed artists, the late John Olsen, brought to life as a spectacular celebration of his illustrious artistic career of more than 60 years.

Through images selected by curator Dr. Deborah Hart (Henry Dalrymple Head Curator, Australian Art, National Gallery of Australia) and animated by creative technologists Curiious, Life Enlivened (2023) celebrates the propulsive power of Olsen’s painterly brush to envision the natural world anew.

In a world-first, Vivid Sydney breaks new ground with the premiere of Dark Spectrum in Sydney’s Wynyard Tunnels. For the very first time, the internationally acclaimed multi-sensory experience of light, colour and sound, Lightscape, is on display at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

The Vivid Sydney 2023 drone show Written in the Stars features more than 1,000 drones over six shows for what will be one of the biggest drone shows in the Southern Hemisphere to date.

The waters at Cockle Bay in Darling Harbour dances with the show-stopping Elemental – featuring spectacular 80-metre water shooters, flames, projections and pyrotechnics for the largest water show in Australian history.

More than 60 intriguing talks and workshops, exploring community, authenticity, respect, love and lessons learnt from the natural world will be part of the program in 2023.

Creator, writer and director of The White Lotus Mike White will join forces with star of the series Jennifer Coolidge for a deep dive into the power of storytelling, satire and friendship in Mike White and Jennifer Coolidge in Conversation This exhilarating and unmissable event – moderated by Benjamin Law – will uncover insightful and hilarious anecdotes from decades of working in Hollywood.

British author, “master of her material” and “best living writer in this language” Jeanette Winterson joins Vivid Ideas for LIFE AND MARS: The Future of Human – prodding, provoking and challenging your ideas of nature, all while making you laugh as you fall in love with her unique and fascinating way of seeing the world.

Vivid-Sydney-2023-The-Rocks-Destination-NSWNOCTURNE, from Melbourne-based artists one step at a time like this, takes audiences on a one-of-a-kind-experience with an immersive, sonic journey through the hidden streets and laneways of The Rocks.

Diverse and multi-sensory experiences at Carriageworks, with an electrifying line-up including South African artist Desire Marea, Floodlights, Molchat Doma, SOFT CENTRE and many more.

The Vivid LIVE at Sydney Opera House line-up will feature more than 40 Australian and international artists. José González, Yaeji, Hiatus Kaiyote and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Cat Power, and many more will take to the stages of the world-famous building.

Vivid Sydney takes place until Sunday 17 June 2023. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Images: Lighting of the Sails – Life Enlivened at Sydney Opera House | Elemental at Cockle Bay | Vivid House at Barangaroo | Dark Spectrum at Wynyard Tunnels | The Rocks at Vivid Sydney 2023 – all photos courtesy of Destination NSW