Vivid Sydney 2023 kicks 13th year with surprise drone show by Australian Traffic Network

    The Vivid Sydney event 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 official opening of Vivid Sydney 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.

    Minister 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. 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.

    Minister for Jobs and Tourism John 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.

    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!

    Vivid Sydney Festival Director Gill 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.


    • Vivid Residence will be a two-week residency for New York chef Daniel Humm of three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park at Matt Moran’s Aria. Humm will bring both his team and his visionary approach to cuisine to one of Sydney’s most celebrated restaurants from 6–17 June.
    • Vivid Chef Series welcomes more of the world’s most exciting chefs as they join forces with some of Sydney’s best restaurants, including Kiln, Nel and Yellow, to create exclusive and never-before-tasted menus.
    • Vivid Sydney Dinner will return to The Ivy Ballroom, in partnership with hospitality group Merivale, for a fully immersive and unforgettable night fusing light, music, ideas and cuisine into a special feast for the senses featuring esteemed Sydney chefs Ben Greeno and Danielle Alvarez.
    • The Vivid Fire Kitchen at The Cutaway at Barangaroo brings together the world’s hottest dining concepts, curated drinks and entertainment for three weeks of flame-fuelled festivities.


    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 Housewill 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 CuriiousLife Enlivened (2023) celebrates the propulsive power of Olsen’s painterly brush to envision the natural world anew.
    • In a world-first, Vivid Sydney will break 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 coming to The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
    • The Vivid Sydney 2023 drone show Written in the Stars will feature 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 will dance with the showstopping 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 and will prod, provoke and challenge your ideas of nature, all while making you laugh as you fall in love with her unique and fascinating way of seeing the world.
    • NOCTURNE,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.
    • The Vivid Ideas Exchange will feature more than 20 cutting-edge discussions and thought-provoking workshops at the world-leading technology precinct, Telstra Customer Insights Centre.


    With a spotlight on First Nations artists, whatever your musical taste, the Vivid Music program will cater to it.

    • A Bend in the River: A Tribute to Archie Roach AC will celebrate the legacy of the late Archie Roach AC. Sydney Town Hall will be transformed in a night of tribute performances featuring long-time friends, collaborators and his contemporaries, including Paul Kelly, Emma Donovan, Dan Sultan, Kutcha Edwards, Sally Dastey, Becca Hatch, Dobby, Deline Briscoe, Radical Son, Tenzin Choegyal and Tamala Shelton, with appearances from members of Archie’s family.
    • On Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights of the festival, Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour will become the Vivid Sydney go-to for free and eclectic contemporary music right in the heart of the Light Walk for Tumbalong Nights. The 12-night line-up features artists from Africa to Arnhem Land, including Yothu Yindi, Ziggy Ramo, Dan Sultan, Esa’s Afro Synth Band with Kamazu and Mim Suleiman, Emma Donovan,cult Japanese musician Cornelius and more, plus DJs and kids programming on Saturday nights all free of charge.
    • Drag extraordinaire and beloved star of stage and screen Trevor Ashley will transform Mary’s Underground into an intimate cabaret lounge for the Vivid Sydney Supper Club featuringlive performances from headliners Christine Anu, Rhys Nicholson, David Campbell and more each Friday and Saturday from 9pm to 1am during the festival.
    • Diverse and multi-sensory experiences at Carriageworks, with an electrifying line-up including South African artist Desire MareaFloodlights, 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 in a program curated by Sydney Opera House’s Head of Contemporary Music Ben Marshall.

    If you’re in Sydney and looking for fun activities to do with the family, between 26 May – 17 June 2023, you should check out Vivid Sydney.

    For more information and tickets visit

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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