By Ellen Morgan
Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Updated: June 23, 2021 at 1:10 pm
There’s something warming – even romantic – about the glimmer of light in the night. It conjures memories of glow-in-the-dark stars on bedroom walls and living room lamps flickering and glowing through windows as night blankets the streets. Light has a special kind of comfort, and this winter, the city will be brighter than ever, thanks to a new event – Illuminate Adelaide.
Here in South Australia, we’re spoilt with the festival frenzy that comes about in the summer months, but now it’s time for winter to shine (quite literally) with Illuminate Adelaide. New to the state’s event scene in 2021, it’s set to light up the city from 16 July to 1 August.
Technology experts combine with local, interstate and international artists to deliver a program featuring free installations, immersive events, exhibitions and concerts. The common theme? Light.
Illuminate Adelaide is the brainchild of 2 expats who came home to Adelaide with one shared vision – to light the depths of winter in the city.
Rachael Azzopardi and Lee Cumberlidge joined forces to create a new event that would thaw Adelaide’s mid-winter chill. It’s been in the works since 2018. Think inflatable installations you can walk through, music shows in laneways and historic paintings you can touch.
Together, they boast careers spanning years of work in theatre, events and performing arts (including work on Mona’s Mofo in Hobart and Sydney Festival). This is the first time they’ve teamed up for a project.
With support from the State Government, the South Australian Tourism Commission and a variety of other local sponsors including RAA, the event is backed for the next 3 years, with hopes for continuing seasons long after that.
“We wanted to make this something really unique, with a focus on art, light, music and technology, and how these things intersect,” Lee says.
Combining innovative technology with passionate artists and creators, Lee and Rachael have cleverly created the event program to draw on the state’s strengths.
“One of the things that struck us about SA, having been outside looking in for a period of time, was all the amazing stories around future technology in particular, and the creative industries as well,” Lee continues.
“We wanted to break some of those silos of technology, and show people it can be creative, it can be immersive, it can be experiential and you don’t need to be frightened of it,” Rachael says.
“Illuminate Adelaide is all about how we collaborate with the city as a whole – whether it’s the cultural institutions, the Space Agency, the Institute for Machine Learning, the bars and restaurants and so on… it’s about how the city comes alive together.”
Navigating the night
With more than 150 installations, performances and events in the program, it can be hard to choose what to pop in your calendar. Here are a few of our top picks, both free and ticketed.
Over 17 nights, more than 40 installations will make themselves at home in Adelaide’s city streets, ready for you to explore at your own pace. The best part? They’re all free.
The city’s East and West Ends, along with North Tce, will be aglow with activity throughout Illuminate Adelaide, so you’ll have plenty of time to get out and explore.
Check out the mesmerising Firefly Field – a light installation by Dutch design collective Studio Toer – set to ignite the Goodman Crescent Lawns (University of Adelaide) with hovering lights.
Powered by RAA Solar and Battery Storage, the lights showcase the power of sustainable and renewable energy – a focus for Illuminate Adelaide.
We also recommend Airship Orchestra by Victorian company ENESS – a walk-through, inflatable lighting installation housed on the South Australia Museum front lawns. Plus, make sure to take in Yankunytjatjara artist, Kaylene Whiskey’s works along North Tce.
From Indulkana (South Australia), her art explores culture, country and identity.
16 July–1 August, nightly from 6pm, various locations. Free.
Illuminate Adelaide is conscious about reducing its carbon footprint. Thanks to the City of Adelaide’s Carbon Neutral Adelaide program, partners like RAA Solar and Battery Storage, and other carbon offset schemes, the installations will truly have a lighter impact on our environment. Bravo!
An immersive exhibition in Adelaide Botanic Garden, Light Cycles is the star of the Illuminate Adelaide program. Wander, wonder and explore the garden and the mesmerising light installations.
“Moment Factory (Canada) will create 8 different experiences that really respond to the natural environment of the Adelaide Botanic Garden,” Lee says.
15 July–1 August, Tues–Sun from 6:15pm, Adelaide Botanic Garden. $40.
A family-friendly event, Light Creatures sees giant inflatable animals dotted throughout Adelaide Zoo, amongst other interactive installations.
Spy a towering glowing giraffe, pandas and even a native skink as you make the 2 to 3-hour journey along the trail.
8 July–1 August, Thurs–Sun from 6:30pm, Adelaide Zoo. $30.
Van Gogh Alive
One of Illuminate Adelaide’s daytime events, Van Gogh Alive takes some of the world’s most famous artworks out of their frames and transforms them into enormous wall projections.
“You’re almost inside these incredible paintings because of the scale of them,” Lee says.
1 July–12 August, daily, North Adelaide. From $35.
One for the music-lovers, MAAD (Music and Art After Dark) is a one-night-only event, spread throughout the streets and venues of the cultural mecca that is the city’s West End.
“This is our West End takeover – a music and art block party, collaborating with lots of different institutions like the galleries and music venues [Jive, Lion Arts, Nexus, Peter Rabbit],” Lee says.
“We’re also going to bring to life the laneways and streets in between, transforming the architecture with lighting installations, projections and an outdoor stage where the band, The Avalanches will bring the event to a close.”
31 July, from 4pm, various West End locations.