MAKE IT VIVID MONTH: Why Sydney's Amazing Light Festival Needs To Last Twice As Long

‘Play Me’ at the Customs House

Walking to work through Sydney’s CBD the day after Vivid Sydney finished, it felt a little like burglars had gone through the house and cleared out all the furniture while I was away on the long weekend.

The city felt empty. Leaving work at the end of the day, it was depressingly quiet after 18 days of buzz and noise and lights that felt like 2000 Olympics joy all over again.

The infectious goodwill Vivid Sydney inspired made the city a much lovelier place and a relief from the usual grind and all the aggro that comes with it.

Customs House at Circular Quay was the best outdoor bar in the world during Vivid, with Play Me, an interactive mix of visuals, projected onto the historic sandstone building, set to music, being “conducted” by someone from the audience (see below).

As much as I love the building, I wouldn’t mind if it became a permanent feature. It was a little hippy-trippy, but also enormous fun and brought the space, with its two permanent outdoor bars, to life every evening.

No doubt some, inconvenienced by the nightly CBD road closures are pleased to have normality return (although personally, I didn’t mind the extra walk to catch my usual bus home). And the workers who put in long hours in cafes, restaurants or driving public transport are pleased to return to normal shifts. But there’s no doubt the festival provided the city with an enormous economic fillip.

Most astonishingly, 19,500 international tourists booked Vivid travel packages just to come here – and nearly half of those people, 9,700, were from China.

The economic benefit has yet to be analysed, but the value of the 2013 event was estimated at more than $20 million.

But with 1.43 million visitors, an increase of 79% on last year, coming to Vivid, the festival is in danger of being a victim of its own success. The figures have now nearly trebled in just three years – from 500,000 in 2012 to 800,000 in 2013 and now cracking 1.4 million.

An additional 3200 bus services and 350 extra trains added 500,000 in capacity. But despite an additional 132 ferry services on weekends (and ignoring union argy bargy during the festival), the ferries were often full and the best police and transport authorities could do was warn people.

So there’s only one solution to this growing demand: make the Vivid Festival longer.

It’s not just for transport reasons but also to allow families the chance to return.

If, like me, you have children under 10, then you probably want to visit midweek, when it was less crowded than the weekends, but because it’s a school night and you kids being young kids, you can probably manage a maximum of 90 minutes before everyone starts to lose it and the fun turns into a nightmare of tears and exhaustion. That means a few trips to see all of Vivid. With just 18 days to currently choose from, there’s no a lot of time for families to schedule repeat visits.

The other benefit of a longer Vivid is that hopefully the crowds will have a chance to pace themselves. Sure there’ll still be a last-minute crush, but when a few nights of bad weather add to the pressure, an extra week or two offers some grace.

A month of Vivid would help the city cope with a festival that, if it continues at its current rate of success, will attract more than 2 million people in 2015.

And we’d look good for a little longer too.

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