Just as we were missing the warmth of our particularly lovely Sydney autumn, Vivid came along to brighten our evenings and energise the city. I’ve written many times about this light festival. Our family loves it and believes it’s a must-see event. Last year Destination NSW engaged an Access and Inclusion Co-ordinator for the event and I think she’s made the event even more accessible and inclusive this year. If you’re wondering about wheelchair access at Vivid, I’m going to share what we’ve explored so far and I’ll continue to update you as we make our way to as many of the events as possible.
Last night we were fortunate to be invited to a media preview night. We had a sneak peek at some of the light projections and installations.
We started the evening full of anticipation and lined up with Sydney’s media waiting to watch the Customs House projection. Last year the projection on this building was my favourite and this year I wasn’t disappointed. Once again the building was illuminated with vibrant colours and whimsical characters. As an adult I love being carried on a magical journey which touches the child inside and this projection does just that. I found myself smiling gleefully as a I watched a witch, snails and a lizard all draw me into the story.
BJ wasn’t sure where to look first but laughed and enjoyed every minute of this projection.
This projection has a wheelchair accessible interactive element. Entry is via a ramp to a platform which has a series of screens at varying levels.
The screens come to life in a 3D explosion and will no doubt be popular with children. BJ found it hard to know whether to watch the large projection on the building or the 3D version on the screen but thoroughly enjoyed the hands on element.
While at Customs House make sure you take a look to the left of the building on the side of the AMP building as a special tribute is being projected onto the building. 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia and this mosaic of photos is of breast cancer survivors and has been put together by the McGrath Foundation as a symbol of hope.
FIRST FLEET PARK
We moved on to First Fleet Park to a cluster of light installations. These installations are joined by hard plastic matting which makes it easy to get across the grass park. The I Love You installation has to be one of our favourites. In a world where there’s so much turmoil it seems fun, even if embarrassing, to yell “I love you” at the top of your voice.
I Love Sydney is a giant illuminated heart-shaped ‘Love-O-Meter’. There are two microphones, one is lower for children and wheelchair users. When you yell “I love you” into the microphone the heart changes colour. The colours and success is dependent on the delivery and passion behind your declaration of love. I’m not really shy but I’m also not one to stand in a public area yelling at the top of my voice but that’s the joy of a festival like Vivid, it brings out the joy and helps you leave your inhibitions behind.
BJ thought this was the best installation. We all had a go, even quiet AJ was encouraged by the Destination NSW photographer.
The Starlight rocket will have kids lining up for lift off. Last night it was still being finalised but we chatted to the staff and had a peek. An accessible ramp leads visitors into a tunnel and through to the rocket where they prepare for ‘take-off’. Lights, smoke and sounds follow.
Starlight wands are available for sale and will benefit the great work of the Starlight Children’s Foundation Australia
BJ used to go to lots of Starlight events so he was happy when he spied the lovely Captain Starlight. As is usual with Starlight volunteers, she was wonderfully natural with BJ and included AJ in the conversation.
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART (MCA)
The Museum of Contemporary Art is once again the canvas for a light projection. This is a slower paced projection compared to Customs House and not BJ’s favourite. I suspect many adults will enjoy the colours and pace. The projection is better appreciated from further away. I really enjoyed watching it from the Opera House side of the harbour.
Cadmans Cottage is transformed into the bow of an imaginary vessel which takes participants on a voyage through a portal to a magical and mysterious land.
The spectator becomes a passenger on the journey as the vehicle speeds through evolving landscapes; participants can interact with the surroundings.
We were told wheelchairs should approach from the side to avoid cattle-grid queuing.
OPERA HOUSE PRECINCT
The Sydney Opera House was not illuminated last night but we did come across a fabulous wheelchair accessible attraction, Dress Circle. We entered a booth where the kids had the opportunity to choose which city buildings to illuminate and in which colours. It’s fun painting the Sydney skyline making this a winner with our whole family. It’s easy to take the Vivid Festival for granted but when we speak to the installation creators it really makes us appreciate how much effort goes into making this event so special. 85,000 lights had to be strung around the city’s attractions to make Dress Circle what it is. Next time you complain about hanging those Christmas lights around your house, just remember that figure.
Ramp access in and out made it easy with BJ’s chair.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE VIEWING AREAS
If you are visiting Vivid I urge you to use the well thought out accessible viewing areas which are reserved for people with a disability or mobility restrictions.
As you walk around the harbour there are plenty of places to enjoy glimpses of the key illuminated buildings.
If you need a break from the crowds, head to the Cahill Walk. Even the lift ride provides spectacular views of the city. The lift to the Cahill Walk can be found at the Opera House end of the ferry wharves. It’s set back from the harbour, towards the road.
When you get to the top you’ll be rewarded with unobstructed views of Sydney Harbour.
The further along you walk the more of the harbour you will see.
Vivid is an event which brings together generations. Seniors, loved-up couples, families with young children and everyone in between will enjoy Vivid. For this reason it’s a popular event which draws huge crowds to Sydney. This year the event is running longer (May 27-June 18) and spread out with more precincts, including Chatswood, the Botanical Gardens, Martin Place, Darling Harbour and Taronga Zoo (a ticketed event). Whether this helps with the crowds is yet to be seen. I feel Circular Quay and surrounds will always be the busiest areas because the beauty of Sydney Harbour naturally draws the crowds.
Destination NSW have many resources for people needing information about accessibility and inclusion. These are available online to help you plan your visit. Planning and research is key to a good Vivid experience.
- Visit early on a weekday evening – lights go on at 6pm. In my opinion, Monday night is the secret night to visit. We’ve previously found a night with slight drizzle seems to keep crowd numbers down.
- If you feel overwhelmed by the scope of the event, I suggest choosing a particular area and simply enjoying what it has to offer. My must-see is the Customs House projection and the area around First Fleet Park, Museum of Contemporary Art and Dress Circle near the Opera House.
- Use the accessibility page on the Vivid website to plan and research your visit. The information is extensive and it will help you make the most of your evening.
- This year there is increased drop off and pick up zones.
- If you are driving into the city, check the Vivid website for parking stations with van parking.
- Public transport is the recommended way to get into the city on the weekend in particular as there are many road closures.
- Disabled unisex toilets are available and marked clearly on the accessibility map.
- Take advantage of the unobstructed views in the accessible viewing areas. These are reserved area for visitors using a wheelchair or with mobility requirements. .
- Limited special parking areas (Monday to Thursday) are available for disability groups and disability services. These can only be pre-booked.
- If in doubt about access once you are in the city ask one of the many volunteers.
As we visit the many events surrounding Vivid I will be updating the website so if you don’t want to miss anything, subscribe to our blog and follow along on our Facebook page.