Sydney Morning Herald MAY 22, 2009 - by Kelsey Munro


What might lure hibernating Sydney-siders out from under the doona in the cold weather? The organisers of the inaugural Vivid Sydney festival, a partly free public festival of "music, light and ideas", hope they've got just the ticket.

"We are about making Sydney vivid during this period," says Brenton Kewley, the festival's executive producer. "We're celebrating the creative industries of Sydney. We're not the Sydney Festival... we want this to be quite unique."

Centred largely around The Rocks, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Circular Quay and the Opera House, the inaugural, multi-faceted Vivid Sydney is a complex sell but it has been designed to have something accessible to all.

There are four main parts under the Vivid umbrella: Luminous, an arty music festival at the Sydney Opera House; Smart Light Sydney, which includes light installations on a "Light Walk" around the Quay; Fire Water, a three-night historical pyrotechnic spectacle on the harbour; and Creative Sydney, a series of free creative industry seminars, panels and workshops at the MCA.

Tying it all together is the State Government and the city council's mutual desire to get people out and about in the cooler weather to generate an estimated ten million dollars during a traditionally quieter tourism period and, in the longer term, recast the city as a regional creative hub.

Festival backer Events NSW says Sydney is the country's creative capital, with "thirty-seven per cent of Australia's creative industry located in NSW and eighty-two per cent of creative-industry workers living in metropolitan Sydney".

Kewley dismisses a suggestion that it is a top-down attempt to poach Melbourne's creative reputation.

"I just don't buy into the Sydney-Melbourne argument," he says. "I've lived in Melbourne as well and they're just different cities. We will do what Sydney does best."

Artistic director Jess Scully programmed Creative Sydney with help from arts identity Marcus Westbury. "It's about the opportunity for creative people across a whole range of industries to come together and discuss what's inspiring about making work in Sydney," Scully says, "but also what the challenges are - and an opportunity for people to celebrate the work of their peers."

Aimed at the city's creative classes but open to all, Creative Sydney will run for three weeks at the MCA and the Roxy in Parramatta. The festival bar at the MCA is open to everyone, registered or not.

English music luminary Brian Eno has curated Luminous at the Opera House, with the famous building to be lit on both sides of its sails with moving projections as the music program runs inside. New York "math rock" band Battles, British synth-pop act Ladytron, Irish troubadour Damien Dempsey and dub pioneer Lee 'Scratch' Perry are on the bill.

At the other end of the festival's spectrum, the Fire Water spectacle will please all ages at Sydney Cove, recreating the 1814 burning and sinking off Bennelong Point of the Three Bees, a convict ship.

"I'm a great believer that if you gather all the imagineers in one place, the general public will follow," Kewley says.