I had another reunion today.
One of my friends lives in Sydney, having moved here several years ago, and we met for lunch to catch up.
It was a nice way to get my bearings about the key sights and a few pointers for the several festivals that are up and coming or currently taking place.
Once again, I seem to have arrived just in time for major cultural entertainment. I’m getting good at this.
Sydney Festival, or SydFest, is a major arts festival that runs for three weeks every January, and has been doing since it was established in 1977.
The program features in excess of 100 events from local and international artists and includes contemporary and classical music, dance, circus, drama, visual arts and artist talks.
In addition, this year marks 250 years since guess who… Captain Cook arrived here. There are a number of talks and exhibitions taking place to examine this history.
It was New Zealand’s 250th anniversary of coming to Cook’s attention in 2019. This wasn’t treated with wide ranging enthusiasm by the Kiwis and proposals to have tall ships events were viewed as insensitive – considering the wars that followed as a result of European settlers trying to drive the Maori off their lands.
The Sydney Festival attracts approximately 500,000 people to its large-scale free outdoor events and 150,000 to its ticketed events (many, though not all of which are also free) and contributes more than A$55 million to the economy of New South Wales.
All of this is on top of the free museums and exhibitions that are open all year round anyway.
And as I’m in the city that also has a rather iconic opera house, I thought I should also see about getting tickets for a couple of shows there.
I can’t come all of this way and not go to see a show.
On checking in at the hostel, I asked if there was any way of getting cheap tickets. In London, and many major cities, you can get bargain prices (for terrible seats and views) at certain times of the day.
The receptionist didn’t know of anything. I asked my friend who suggested simply going to the box office rather than booking online.
After lunch, we wandered down to the Opera House, past the Art Gallery of New South Wales (which is free)…
…and the Botanical Gardens (which are also free to visit)…
…to Mrs MacQuarie’s Chair which isn’t actually a chair… and my friend explained that it’s a rocky outcrop when he saw me looking around in puzzlement… I was looking for a giant dining chair…
And eventually we arrived at the Opera House and the Box Office.
Top Tip: You can get discounts on tickets of you visit the Box Office. I booked tickets for two shows and qualified for a Welcome Pack discount which knocked around 15-20% off a slightly more expensive ticket (and therefore better seat) than I was going to buy.
I’m not including a link to the Sydney Opera House website because the point is that you need to visit it to get the discounted tickets.
Between the free museums, the free galleries, the discounted Opera House visits and catching up with friends, I’m going to be busy here.
And then there is the Sydney Festival as well.
It culminates or coincides with Australia Day on the 26th January, which is becoming a contentious event here.
The programme for Sydney’s Australia Day celebrations involve a fair amount of pageantry, by my reading of the schedule, flypasts, naval servicemen and women presentation, along with street parties but also, a tall ships race and a tall ships regatta.
At the same time there will be a counter protest taking place in Hyde Park – Australia Day is also referred to as Invasion Day.
FIRE (Fighting In Resistance Equality) note that:
For First Nations Peoples and Allies, the 26th of January is the day that marked the Invasions of our Peoples.
It is offensive to celebrate genocide and the attempted subjugation of over 500 different nations.
Some of this history and murder of Indigenous Peoples was outlined in the Melbourne Walking Tour that I joined a few weeks ago.
The Festival programme includes events that address this but it does seem rather undermined by Australia Day being the last day of the three week programme.