Sydney: Give me Vivid every night of the year

After a few blazing years lighting up Sydney’s skies, last year saw some chatter that perhaps the Vivid concept is becoming tired. Whether it was the jam-packed crowds, overzealous security staff or an uninspiring format – there was comment from a few local punters that the festival was no longer for them.

However, despite last year’s criticisms and the different opinions out there about Vivid, the fact is that it has blown into town this year like a refreshing southerly buster on an unbearable summer’s day.

After all, this city has felt culturally desert dry of late. Be it the 176 venues closing in the past five years, the new night-time ghost towns of Kings Cross and Oxford Street, or the scathing findings from the inquiry into NSW’s Music and Arts economy – Sydney has never needed a coming-together downpour, more.

And for those able to see past the surface of Vivid’s apparent predictability, it does carry some boldness. Renowned international acts come here to perform for it. Dozens of talks and workshops explore ‘big ideas’ while trying to stirand motivate our local tech community.

Vivid also strives to stimulate debate about what it means to be a “Sydneysider”. Discussions are pillars of its offering – as it hands the floor and microphones over to local cultural voices, local industry, local artists, local talent. Where it’s superficial drawcard sees laser beams illuminating our night sky, there is plenty of the cerebral stuff to inspire, if you know where to look.

Filling up just three short weeks of our local cultural calendar, Vivid continues to fall short by a disappointing forty-nine weeks each year.

But where Vivid attempts to be energetic – where it relieves us with some much-needed creative rain – it still remains undeniably inadequate. Filling up just three short weeks of our local cultural calendar, it continues to fall short by a disappointing forty-nine weeks each year.

If Sydney wants to be a global city once again, then we deserve (and should demand) access to a world- class, vibrant and properly funded cultural offering every week of the year.

What’s more, that refreshing ambience that Vivid sprinkles down on us – a mood in the CBD, smiles walking through Circular Quay, tourists admiring the vibrancy, a noticeable character about town – should be a standard Sydney thing. The best loved international cities in the world are known for a constant effervescence running through them, never just small bursts of the stuff.

And Sydney can be like that. In fact, it used to be like that and we absolutely deserve it to be like that.

Shoehorning an up-and-coming cultural offering like Sydney’s into three small weeks, is simply unacceptable. Our yearning local artists, once-seething live music scene and our budding cultural thinkers should never have to wrestle for spots in a program at a single, annual snapshot event.

Of course I’m not saying that we should ready those Vivid spotlights in order to pepper the night’s sky with them every single evening. But what I am saying is that every Sydneysider should be able to step out after work and have access to affordable, quality, world-class cultural offerings – any night of the week.

We should be able to feel the energy of our city more, too. We should be able to sense its atmosphere around us. We should be able to participate in that kaleidoscope of watching and interacting with locals from all sorts of backgrounds, as our public spaces are unshackled to do what they were actually built for – to bustle.

For far too long, Sydney’s cultural offering has been under budgeted, deprioritised and ring-fenced within a few safe, mainstream weeks.

All year round, Sydney’s night time should be a space in which we discuss, listen, laugh, explore, share food, sharestories, have fun and come together after a busy day working. It also needs to be reinstated as a place to express ourselves, as it once did. A place to re-energise and reconnect with friends and peers. A place that allows us to explore our local fabric and be a place that can inspire again.

With a daily grind that is riddled with “to dos”, bills, commitments, traffic, obligations and convention – an exciting cultural offering after five, is a necessary and healthy facet of any global city.

For far too long, Sydney’s cultural offering has been under budgeted, deprioritised and ring-fenced within a few safe, mainstream weeks.

So it’s no wonder at all there is a ‘rush’ on Vivid, that it can feel overcrowded and that some people are beginning to feel let down by what it is perceived to offer. With such a big personality and barely anywhere to explore it at any other time of the year – it’s inevitable that Vivid will never be able satisfy everything that Sydney is interested in expressing.

Joseph O’Donoghue is Co-Founder of the Keep Sydney Open Party and a freelance journalist

One response to “Sydney: Give me Vivid every night of the year

  1. Vivid is a mortician’s veneer over Sydney’s cultural cadaver. No amount of prayer, or government sponsored “art” is capable of resurrecting this stagnant cultural pond.

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