Five of the best: Food, Ideas and Music at Vivid Sydney 2024

If you’ve found yourself in Sydney for June, count your lucky stars: you’re just in time to experience Vivid Sydney. Each year, the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas sets up its headquarters on the shores of one of the world’s most iconic harbours.
Nest by Leila Jeffreys and Melvin J Montalban at Vivid Sydney 2024.
Nest by Leila Jeffreys and Melvin J Montalban will be on the Stargazer Lawn in Barangaroo as part of Vivid Sydney.

Highlights from this year’s line-up aren’t easy to count, but two of our favourites are Hika Rakuyo, an eight-minute show that sees holographic native flowers bloom and fall across the waters of Cockle Bay, and Nest, where gigantic waterbirds dance across a mesmerising transparent stage.

Although the lights around Sydney Harbour are the main drawcard for the thousands of tourists who visit each year, Vivid Sydney is so much more. Each year the music program is better at drawing hot international acts than many music festivals; the food program boasts celebrity chefs from home and abroad; and the festival of ideas spans everything from talks by sports stars to hard-to-find film to mindfulness workshops.

Vivid Food
Aurorae at Bennelong Bar.
Aurorae at Bennelong Bar: fine-dining paired with the best vantage point in town.

The Vivid Food program for 2024 will be rich and all-consuming. The website has a full run-down of events and experiences, but here are five of our favourites:

  • VividPlace Food Trail will recall bustling and lively night food markets in the laneways of Sydney Place and Bulletin Place, and feature an array of Australia’s top chefs, restaurateurs and bartenders.
  • Messina Milk Bar will be reimagined for Vivid Sydney 2024, with a nostalgic selection of flavours such as a warm Milo fudge sundae.
  • Vivid Fire Kitchen gathers local and international pitmasters, such as Californian Shalamar Lane, Australian culinary legend Christine Manfield and Texas-based Aussie BBQ legend Jess Pryles, who will use fire and charcoal to turn The Goods Line into a multi-sensory and multicultural smorgasbord.
  • A Culinary Canvas by celebrity chef Danielle Alvarez will be both an extraordinary dinner within Sydney Opera House, and a celebration of women in Australian gastronomy, winemaking and music.
  • Our Shared Humanity will be an opportunity to dive deep into the work and food of one of the hottest chefs in Sydney: Mitch Orr. Ace Hotel’s head chef, known for his genre-bending style, will be crafting a vegetarian menu that fuses traditional and modern flavours to complement the theme of a shared humanity. Profits from the event will help OzHarvest feed Sydney’s vulnerable communities.
Vivid Ideas
Shifting Perspectives: An Interactive Performance, Vivid Sydney 2024.
Shifting Perspectives, an all-ages, all-abilities, immersive dance production at Walsh Bay Arts Precinct.

Comedy, queer history, sports stars and cult films — Vivid Sydney’s 2024 Ideas program covers a lot of ground. Here are our top five:

  • The Free + Equal Human Rights Conference is a chance to be part of history. Presented by the Australian Human Rights Commission, this historic forum will converge more than 50 human rights leaders and activists who will be hard at work overhauling Australia’s human rights framework — all within the space of 12 sessions over two days.
  • Seven of Australia’s sharpest and silliest LGBTQIA+ creatives will come together for Queeries, which returns to the Vivid Sydney Ideas program after selling out in 2023. This year’s line-up includes novelists, drag artists and cultural critics, all of whom will discuss what it means to be human through a queer lens.
  • Finally some good news. A New Normal provides an optimistic vision of what a sustainable, self-sufficient Sydney could look like in the near future, in an interactive format that is part gallery, part pavilion and part meeting space. Among the prototypes featured within the building takeover of the Harwood Building Courtyard and Carpark will be a solar-powered ‘forever car’, furniture made from rubbish and a sauna heated by food waste.
  • Another interactive experience, Shifting Perspectives is an immersive dance performance and light installation that invites you to roam among a maze of mirrors, while dancers glide around you past 24 reflective plinths. The work is a collaboration between Restless Dance Theatre and Matthew Adey, whose spatial artistry has previously been on display as part of House of Vnholy at Dark Mofo.
  • Champions of Change at Vivid Sydney 2024 will be an opportunity to hear from legends of modern sport. The ‘in conversation’ event will bring together Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson and Matildas goalkeeper and captain of West Ham United Mackenzie Arnold, alongside journalist Grace Gill, to discuss their remarkable journeys on and off the pitch.
Vivid Music
Honey Point x CLUB 4A, Vivid Sydney 2024.
Honey Point x CLUB 4A at Mary’s Underground is for lovers of house, afrobeat and club music.

Between free performances and international acts that would count as a coup even for established festivals, the Vivid Music program for 2024 is a true delight. Here are our top five picks:

  • The heart of the Vivid Sydney Light Walk in Circular Quay, Tumbalong Park will also be home to a free festival of contemporary music: Tumbalong Nights. Different acts will take the stage for each night of Vivid Sydney, but some of the highlights within this highlight include Melbourne singer-songwriter Mallrat, performances from First Nations legends such as Christine Anu at Jalbu Muna, and a night of all-female punk with Teenage Joans and Lola Scott.
  • What did we say about coups? As part of the Vivid Music program for 2024, legendary French pop duo Air will be making a trip to Sydney Opera House to play their iconic debut album Moon Safari in full. It’s set to be a truly once-in-a-lifetime performance.
  • For the duration of the festival, Mary’s Underground will transform into a late-night cabaret lounge called Supper Club. Hosted by beloved Australian comedian Rhys Nicholson and ARIA award-winning musician Georgia Mooney, each night will take a different theme with new guests, but what will remain consistent will be the guarantee of sensational music, storytelling and giggling.
  • Queer performance art duo The Huxleys have gained somewhat of a cult following in recent years. For Vivid Sydney 2024, they’ll be presenting a night of extravagance and queer celebration that combines music, performance art and their signature outlandish costume.
  • In 1998, Portishead released a full-length live concert album, performed with a 30-piece orchestra. In celebration of the film’s 25th anniversary, Vivid Sydney will be staging a rare screening, giving fans the opportunity to see the band performing acclaimed songs such as ‘Glory Box’ and ‘Sour Times’ within the acoustically unparalleled setting of Sydney Opera House.

Vivid Sydney 2024 will take place across the city from May 24 to June 15.

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