Enlighten Festival sets record for opening night
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Enlighten Festival sets record for opening night

ENLIGHTEN festival organisers say Friday was the biggest opening night of the event since it started four years ago.

Early estimates indicated more than 10,000 people turned up to Enlighten's free and ticketed events, an ACT government spokesman said.

The National Library.

The National Library.Credit:Melissa Adams

Figures show the event, which heralds the start of autumn, is performing better each year since its dismal beginnings in 2011 when it lost $2.4 million after the government was forced to give away a third of tickets - almost 3000 worth more than $250,000 - to its paid events because of poor interest.

This year, just 593 complimentary tickets were offered for Enlighten 2014. Paid ticketed events will have a capacity of 9315.

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This is a similar amount of complimentary tickets compared to last year.

Opposition arts spokesman Brendan Smyth, who grilled the government about Enlighten in 2011, said it was good to see a smaller proportion of free tickets handed out.

''It was unacceptable and unsustainable to be handing out thousands of tickets,'' Mr Smyth said.

''We await with interest the outcomes from this year's event.''

The government has stated a clear goal for Enlighten 2014, which ends on Saturday. If the weather is kind, it expects to exceed last year's total gross attendance of 115,031, which included attendances at ticketed events, free events and at the entertainment precincts.

Last year's headline number was an increase of 290 per cent on 2012 figures.

Rain dampened Canberra on Saturday and the Bureau of Meteorology predicts showers for most days in the coming week including Friday. Most events are on Friday and Saturday.

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A government spokesman said Enlighten was cementing its position as a creative and innovative event of national significance and was carving its place as a much-loved part of Canberra's calendar.

As part of the festival's conclusion, the events on Friday and Saturday will include short films shown at the Senate Rose Gardens, an ''Elvis at 21'' karaoke party at the National Portrait Gallery, a Latin fiesta at Questacon, music by Troy Brady at the National Archives and horse puppeteers at John Dunmore Lang Place.

Phillip Thomson is a Public Service Reporter at The Canberra Times.