Light festivals around Australia: Let there be light all year round

Vivid Sydney may have switched off its lights for 2022, but the nighttime spectacles continue on thanks to a multitude of luminous festivals across the country.

"I think Vivid has demonstrated the benefits that investment in large scale cultural events can have for a city, and I think its popularity has helped other governments feel confident to make these investments in their own states," said Illuminate Adelaide co-creator and director Lee Cumberlidge.

Illuminate, which runs from July 1-31, is the latest to build upon Vivid's mammoth success, one-upping the three-week Sydney festival with a month-long program of installations and events in the Adelaide CBD, including a special performance by global music phenomenon Gorillaz.

"Humans are drawn to light and at Illuminate Adelaide we have extended this to immersion, interactivity featuring technology in art and music," Cumberlidge said.

Like Vivid, which was cancelled two years running due to the pandemic, Illuminate's inaugural 2021 showcase was disrupted by sudden border closures just days into the festival.

But if Vivid's record-breaking 2.58 million 2022 attendance is anything to go off, then Illuminate is on track to deliver a major bump to South Australia's economy.

"Light Cycles completely sold out in 2021 and we really wanted those who missed out, as well as interstate visitors, to have a chance to experience this beautiful project," said Cumberlidge of the event's return in 2022.

The ticketed event, produced by Montreal-based multimedia studio Moment Factory famous for its stage productions for artists like Billie Eilish and Madonna, has transformed the Adelaide Botanic Garden once again with a sprawling display of lighting, lasers, projections and sound.

Large scale ticketed events form a big focus of the Illuminate line-up, complemented with a free program of interactive installations, City Lights, spilling into the city streets.

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Adelaide's answer to Vivid is in good company alongside Lightscape (June 24 to August 7), which makes its Australian debut in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne after festival stints in the UK and US, and GLOW: Bendigo After Dark (June 25 to July 17).

Glenn Harvey, marketing manager for Bendigo Regional Tourism, said the festival concept is helping bolster tourism during what is traditionally a quiet period for the regional centre.

"Glow was established to generate visitation. Vivid inspired us to look at another night festival that could tell our Bendigo stories for more than one night and generate visitation for a longer period," Harvey said.

"Night festivals are fantastic for photographing as they provide lots of wow moments, and social media plays a key role with people communicating the enjoyment of their visit."

The pandemic's impact on local tourism has given many Australian governing bodies impetus to join the throng of destinations turning on the after-dark razzle-dazzle.

The Gold Coast will be launching its new Big City Lights arts and cultural festival in the heart of the city July 1-10.

"It's more on the boutique end of the spectrum, but Big City Lights is also indicative of the cultural revolution happening on the Gold Coast, which has seen significant investment in arts and culture over the past five years," said artistic director Rosie Dennis.

Among one of the more unusual light festivals to debut this year is Reef Lights, part of Cairns Festival, which will be recreating the Great Barrier Reef through a number of themed light installations along the Cairns Esplanade and Lagoon from August 26 to September 4.

"Reef Lights was developed after enormous success with Cairns Festival's City Light project, which involved local visual artists collaborating with Sydney Vivid projection specialists to light up the façade of the historic Cairns Library," said Cairns mayor Bob Manning.

"Following the overwhelmingly positive reception, organisers looked to take it a step further."

The addition features the works of six local artists from diverse cultural backgrounds. Among the dazzling displays is a marine-inspired bioluminescence installation and a neon jellyfish garden.

This year alone, Australia has already embraced Canberra's Enlighten Festival (March 4-20), the Red Centre's Parrtjima - A Festival of Light (April 7-16), and Rising Melbourne (June 1-12), with light-themed events filling up the Australian calendar through to the summer months.

Cumberlidge puts the trend down to the sense of wonder and beauty lighting installations foster.

"Light is a fundamental life source, and during the darker longer nights of winter this beacon of light provides hope, optimism and warmth."

THE AUSTRALIAN LIGHT FESTIVAL CALENDAR

Lightscape Melbourne (June 24 - August 7, 2022)

See melbournelightscape.com.au

GLOW: Bendigo After Dark (June 25 - July 17, 2022)

See bendigoregion.com.au

Illuminate Adelaide (July 1-31, 2022)

See illuminateadelaide.com

Big City Lights Gold Coast (July 7-10, 2022)

See bigcitylightsfestival.com.au

Moama Lights, The Murray (July 31 - August 21, 2022)

See echucamoama.com/moama-lights-2021

Reef Lights: Illuminate the Tropics (August 26 - September 4, 2022)

See cairns.qld.gov.au

Perth Winter Lights Festival (August 13-21, 2022)

See bfplperth.com

White Night: Bendigo (September 3, 2022)

See whitenight.com.au/bendigo

White Night: Geelong (October 8, 2022)

See whitenight.com.au/geelong

Canberra Enlighten Festival (March 2023)

See enlightencanberra.com

Parrtjima - A Festival in Light (April 7-16, 2023)

See parrtjimaaustralia.com.au

Rising Melbourne (June, 2023)

See rising.melbourne

White Night: Shepparton (June, 2023)

See whitenight.com.au/shepparton

Field of Light, Uluru (extended indefinitely)

See ayersrockresort.com.au/experiences/field-of-light