9 Free Events at Sydney Festival

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For those new to Sydney Festival, it’s a three week summer celebration of the city, its ideals, thoughts and community make up that draws in hundreds of thousands of people each year.   Its origins go back to the 1950s Waratah Festival which was hosted in the Spring.  The earlier advents of Sydney Festival included vintage car rallies, face painting, kite flying to bocce, dog obedience trials and Chinese scarf dancing.  The 1980s saw the breakout of a riot when profitability and artistic credibility were brought into question.   Today the staging area of venues extends throughout the CBD out to the Western Suburb showgrounds, Eastern Suburb and South premiering international and local productions exploring subject matter through celebration, commemoration and social awareness.

Each year they present a number of free events for visitors and locals to enjoy:

50TH ANNIVERSARY OF MAN LANDING ON THE MOON is the theme of various participatory events and installation at sites across the Sydney CBD.
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‘Fly me to the Moon’ invites visitors to collectively cycle the 384,400km to the moon on a specially installed pedal-powered rickshaw with wings and stationery bikes (created by Earth Visual & Physical)  at World Square.  

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‘Apollo 11’ is an installation that constitutes eleven newly commissioned sculptures, ‘Sydmonauts’ commemorating key figures in space exploration.  ‘Moon Drops’ at Darling Harbour features seven water-filled Moon Drops (designed by Jasmax, Alt Group & Auckland Council of Public Arts).
9-27 January – World Square, Barangaroo South and Darling Harbour

XIAO LU is one of the most daring artists who was once arrested after firing two shots into her own artwork at Beijing’s National Art Gallery in 1989.

SydFest Top5 Free.002DIALOGUE is an avant garde exhibition that showcases some of her most thought provoking works across three decades, incorporating new works that centre around her new home in Australia.

19-27 January – 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Haymarket

THE BEEHIVE is based on Juanita Nielsen, a 1970s activist for urban conservation and community issues whose murder continues to remain unsolved.   A video installation of scripted fiction, documentary interviews, choreographed sequences that is presented using randomising software.   SYDFest 2 FREE.006In effect, the 1344 variations means the experience and exhibit will be different for each viewer.   The graphical and confronting backdrop is used by Zanny Begg to delve into topics of housing, gentrification, corruption and non-conventional lifestyles.

5 January – 23 February – UNSW Galleries, Paddington

SYDNEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA UNDER THE STARS a free concert in the Western Sydney park of Parramatta.

SYDFest 2 FREE.002Read more on Western Sydney events and productions here including Symphony under the Stars.

ALWAYS is presented by artist, Jacob Nash.  A large scale sign with mirrored spaces

ALWAYS Artist Renderplaying on illusions of distance.   The idea behind this is to provoke debate on Indigenous issues in Australia, particularly land rights.


9-27 January – Barangaroo Reserve


JUST NOT AUSTRALIAN is a specially curated selection of works by Soda Jerk, Abdul Abdullah, Hoda Afshar, Tony Albert, Cigdem Aydemir, Liam Benson, Eric Bridgeman, Jon Campbell, Karla Dickens, Fiona Foley, Gordon Hookey, Richard Lewer, Archie Moore, Vincent Namitjira, Nell, JOan Ross and Tony Schwensen.  SYDFest 2 FREE.004Through the frames of immigration, satire, larrikinism and resistance. the exhibition examines the meaning of ‘arrival’ as a continuum of ongoing immigration.  A timely presentation as we prepare to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s first voyagee to Australia.

18 January-31 March – Artspace, Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo

T5 TANK SOUND PROJECT is a world premiere that combines an Australian Navy camouflage tank and WWI relic with soundscapes by a team of sound artists.   SydFest Top5 Free.005Chris Caines, Gail Priest and David Haines are collaborate bringing their knowledge and expertise from cinema, hybrid technology, virtual dynamics and other mediums into one sonic audio experience.   

20, 23-27 January – T5 Camouflage Fuel Tank, Mosman

BLOOD MONEY is a participatory installation by Brisbane based and Alice Springs born artist, Ryan Presley.   The installation will be on display on Level 1 of the South Gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art. SydFest Top5 Free.003 It presents a money exchange booth in which he will set the ‘echange rate’ each day.   Visitors will be able to exchange Australian currency into the limited design printed currency of ‘Blood Money Dollars’.  The watercolor paintings flip the script of faces we know from local currency replacing key Australian figures with leaders, advocates, warriors and writers prominent in Aboriginal history.  $10, $20, $50 and $100 Blood Money notes can be exchanged for your Australian dollars with the proceeds going to two nominated Alice Springs and Sydney based Aboriginal youth organizations.

21-28 January, Museum of Contemporary Art, The Rocks

THE ROPES: AMRITA HEPI X ADRIAN PIPER is a world premiere that combines first

SYDFest 2 FREE.003

nation choreography from Amrita Hepi alongside conceptual video installations by Adrian Piper.   Intersectional themes of culture and tradition are explored across Indigenous Australian and African American experience.

11 January – 3 March – Cement Fondu, Paddington


Photo Credits: Philippa Bateman, Jamie Williams, Brook Mitchell, David Haines, Soda Jerk, Sydney Festival, City of Sydney, Shake Lee, 


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