If there is one night of the year in Melbourne when you should dust off your bike, put some air in the tyres and some lube on the chain, it is this upcoming Saturday (February 21). White Night has quickly become Melbourne’s biggest public art festival; 2013 and 2014 saw the CBD overrun from 7pm until 7am with happy people and art installations. To accommodate the event lots of roads will be closed, causing gridlock, and overpacked public transport is never pleasant when overrun by odorous revellers – so your best bet of having a truly pleasant and stress free evening is to navigate your way into the city on a bike.
It’s all about the timing…
From 9:00-11:30pm the city will be flooded by a sea of people, so before you make your way in you should have a think about where you want to be and when, to avoid the worst of the human gridlock. Given that lots of the events keep going until 7am my advice is that you have an afternoon nap and get to the party fashionably late. Another thing to consider is that some of the exhibitions will still be running in the weeks after White Night, such as the Bohemian Melbourne exhibition at the State Library, so you can earmark them for a visit in the future, rather than seeing them on the night.
What should you see?
Honestly, the number of events that make up the festival is huge, a little overwhelming even. The Event Guide lists over 90 happenings, there is no way you can see them all. My advice is to let go of your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and let the night take you where it will. That’s not to say that you can’t have a plan, you totally can. Use the listed set times of the artists you want to see at the Indie Music Stage in the south, the Music for a World Stage in the north, and the Jazz @ the Forum as a skeleton for your evening – you can visit the lighting, performance art and food stalls you are interested in while moving between stages. Make sure you leave plenty of time to walk across the city, you will need it!
A note about the White Night website…
It is clear that the organisers have put a lot of effort into making this logistically complicated event navigable online – there are interactive maps, you can search by the type of event, and so on. Unfortunately my experience of the website has been kind of unreliable, with lots of pages failing to load. This is a real pity, as I would love to use the “My Night” tool to plan my evening. I have tried a number of different browsers, but with no success. Maybe I have just caught the website at a bad time, who knows. But, if you’ve had as little luck with it as I have had, I suggest grabbing a printed version of the event guide from one of the “participating cultural institutions”, and making your plan using old-fashioned pencil and paper.
Besides the three venues with listed performance times you will find a plethora of other musical performances in a diversity of styles throughout the city. There is non-stop dance music in Lonsdale St for I Could Have Danced All Night, and an alley of buskers at Bourke St Mall and along Southbank Promenade. You can catch some electronic beats at ACMI, and make your own at The Beat Box on Batman Ave. If you fancy Bollywood tunes head down to Sita’s Garden along the banks of the Yarra. You will also find classical music being played at the Block Arcade. Many of the lighting and performance pieces also incorporate music, so your auditory sense definitely won’t miss out on the White Night fun.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to see the lights until the sun sets at 9pm, and that you will be able to see them until 7am, so there is no need to worry about missing them. They are the highlight of the festival for many, enhancing the playful mood of the city, and make the perfect ‘in-between’ activity, you can see them while you wander from event to event. Don’t miss the projections inside the Forum and the State Library, it is very cool to see the interiors of these historic buildings transformed by light.
You have a long night ahead of you, so don’t let hunger kill the vibe. Prepare a picnic to enjoy in Carlton Gardens, pick up some Indian street food at Sita’s Garden: Yarra River, or sit down to a meal at one of the dozens of restaurants who are extending their trading hours for the evening.
It’s not just your eyes and ears that get to have all the fun, your brain is in for a treat as well. Contemplate love, sin, science and nature, money, art-making and more while watching or interacting with one the installations or performances. Help make a Magazine in a Night or watch Adrienne Kneebone weave herself into a human-sized basket, whatever captures your imagination.
One last thing…
Whether you visit White Night for an hour or twelve, remember that the most important thing is to have fun! If you hate waiting in lines then visit an event you have to book, like the Phantoms of the Theatre Ghost Tours at the Arts Centre. If you want to see the lights but don’t like crowds then stay away from Flinders St until the early hours of the morning. If you need a respite from all the noise then find yourself a quiet haven while watching the silent films of Kinotopia (which is at a so-called ‘secret location’ – I am guessing this is the Kino cinemas!) There really is something for everyone at this festival of culture, and I am looking forward to celebrating it.
Have I overlooked any interesting events that you are excited about seeing?
Photo from Jose_Teddie’s Flickr Photostream, used under Creative Commons license – thanks for the awesome shot J.P.!