White Night dawns on Melbourne
It was a White Night to remember in Melbourne as thousands flocked to the city for overnight events. Video produced by Luminaire Pictures.PT2M50S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ez7x 620 349 February 24, 2013
MELBOURNE'S inaugural all-night cultural festival White Night attracted a crowd of more than 300,000 people to the city centre, organisers say.
Artistic director Andrew Walsh he was extremely pleased with the turnout and the behaviour of those who attended.
"What we saw last night was a city transformed, a crowd beyond our wildest imagination and experiences to match," Walsh said.
White Night Wonderland
Giant white letters for the festival, on Princes Bridge. Photo by Mal Fairclough.
"No city in Australia has ever seen anything like White Night."
Victoria Police said that despite the large crowd, there were no major incidents reported.
The 7pm Saturday and 7am Sunday event came to a close with a procession by a choir to sing in the sunrise.
A choral procession led by the Exaudi Youth Choir welcomed the new day, performing a song penned by Felix Riebl - The Cat Empire frontman and White Night musical programmer - for the event.
The response to White Night seemed largely positive, although there was some disquiet expressed via social media about the management of crowds, rubbish and noise.
Many people also expressed frustration with struggling mobile phone networks during the night.
As the sun went down on Saturday night, crowds poured into the CBD for the inaugural all-night cultural party, with pedestrians taking over the city grid.
The numbers that teemed down the laneways and roads and across bridges made organisers' estimate of attracting more than 100,000 people seem realistic.
At NGV International, Michel Blazy's installation, Bouquet Final 2, entranced adults and children, as pieces fell and detached from the ephemeral piece, floating through the air in the Great Hall.
Outside in St Kilda Road, massive projections lit up the external walls of the gallery.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu - also the Arts Minister and the driving force behind the festival - made an appearance at the Victorian Opera gala, Opera On A White Night, at Hamer Hall. He told the audience he was so excited about the event he was ''almost giving in to the temptation to sing''.
White Night kicked off at Federation Square with I Could Have Danced All Night. Hundreds of mirror balls were suspended over the site as instructors taught members of the public how to zumba.
Soon after, Melbourne's favourite session band, The RockWiz Orchestra, transformed the famous Flinders Street Station steps into a grand open-air stage. The clocks above them showed the next train times for Williamstown and Frankston as they opened with a rocking version of Show Me the Way to St Louis, the pedestrianised Flinders Street suddenly a huge, al fresco concert.
Families with prams and music fans filled the intersection as music replaced the usual static-filled muffles of the transport hub's announcements.
Swanston Street, meanwhile, was a curious mixture of the city's usual buskers, performance art and opportunistic balloon vendors - above ground, that is. Outside the Hi-Fi bar, a sheep's heart encased in an ice sculpture heralded the action in the subterranean club, as The World Below, an art and music performance featuring aural and visual installations, created an eerie fun-house atmosphere.
White Night also featured a series of art exhibitions and concerts including the intriguingly titled Spheres of Love, Theatre of Dreams, World Above, From the Deep and The Beasts from Behind. Venues including ACMI, the NGV, the Arts Centre and Hamer Hall were open throughout the night.
The popularity of White Night did not surprise artistic director Andrew Walsh, who said Melburnians ''love to get out and get amongst it''.
The event was intended as an ephemeral ''moment in time'' that would light up the city to reveal an art-filled wonderland and then vanish soon after sunrise. That made Blazy's work the perfect piece. He set up an installation of scaffolding in the NGV's Great Hall, around which white detergent-style foam, powered by electric pumps, flowed with quiet unpredictability. Bouquet Final 2 combined structure and overflow, stillness and movement. Blazy thinks of himself as working in the realm of sculpture, although the works he makes don't display the sense of permanence or solidity often associated with it. As an artist, he establishes the terms of the piece, sets things in motion and then steps back.
He likes to become a spectator, and to watch spectators experiencing his work. With Bouquet Final 2, he sees a straightforward feeling of enjoyment. Yet over the course of a night people would come to experience it in very different frames of mind and that changes the nature of their response.
It could well be applied to White Night as a whole.
It appeared the only hiccups were technical ones - the festival's website and phone app crashed and were offline for a period yesterday afternoon as web traffic peaked.
Human traffic, however, kept flowing through Melbourne's long artistic night.
The cultural festival's roaring success in drawing huge crowds to the CBD could see the event expanded in coming years.
Ted Baillieu described the crowd numbers as some of the biggest he had ever seen in the city, potentially surpassing New Year's Eve attendance.
"I think it simply reinforces that Melburnians love the arts," Mr Baillieu said, adding that he was particularly pleased at the wide demographic White Night had attracted into the city, including many families.
He named Ross Wilson playing Eagle Rock with the Rockwiz band on the Flinders St station stage and Photon, an interactive laser display at St Paul's Cathdral, among his highlights by 10pm.
Asked if he would stay for the entire night, Mr Baillieu said that he would try.
Artistic director Andrew Walsh (who planned to see the sunrise in) said the success of the event augured especially well for its proposed return in 2014 and 2015.
Mr Walsh said he hoped to extend the footprint of the festival to include more of the CBD.
"It's amazing in terms of the response from Melburnians," Mr Walsh said.
"We can grow the event much further into the city."
With PHILIPPA HAWKER, MARIS BECK