Thank you for joining us at Sydney Festival 2024

A message from Festival Director Olivia Ansell to close out the 2024 season.

01 Feb, 2024    Olivia Ansell

Guest writer

This January more than 1,000 artists gathered across Sydney to share saltwater stories, freshwater stories and tales of Sydney Harbour. 

Immersive experiences like Puccini’s Il Tabarro aboard The Carpentaria lightship, and choral epic Night Songs at Coney Island, through to eco-friendly contemporary music ship Arka Kinari (Indonesia) and Arc Circus Co.’s performance Living Sculptures: How the Birds got their Colours, hugged our shorelines, beaches and parks. 

With more than 150 events on offer, including 25 world premieres and over 50 free events, this year’s blockbuster program proved there is nowhere like Sydney to experience an exhilarating summer of art. 

At a fundamental level, art has the power to remind us of what it means to be human – to bring people together for an exchange of perspectives. To learn, laugh, cry and be moved.

Be it thought-provoking political murder mystery with Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World by The Javaad Alipoor Company and the National Theatre of Parramatta, takedowns of the macho artist in Masterclass via New York’s Adrienne Truscott and Dublin’s Brokentalkers, or palindromic theatre with Are we not drawn onward to new erA by masterful Belgium theatre makers Ontroerend Goed, our stages were bursting with big ideas and creativity. 

The Festival welcomed acclaimed dance innovators from around the world – including Brazil’s renowned Lia Rodrigues Companhia De Danças with Encantado, and a riveting Swedish double bill from GöteborgsOperans Danskompani.

We hope you could dive in and experience all that Sydney had to offer! 

This year’s Blak Out program curated by Jacob Nash brought us together as a community to heal, and to share joy, pain and hope, transpiring in the world premiere of Big Name, No Blankets – a retelling of the famed Butcher brothers and Warumpi Band – an ILBIJERRI Theatre Company show written by Andrea James, with Anyupa Butcher and Sammy Butcher.

Mutiara by Marrugeku revealed Broome’s confronting history around pearl diving, while Vigil: The Future, co-directed by Jacob Nash and Stephen Page, featured the voices of young people from Marliya Choir in Far North Queensland – whose power, spirit and strength inspired us to think of Australia’s tomorrow. 

In Parramatta, we supported new Australian writing with the NSW premiere of BANANALAND – written by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall (Muriel’s Wedding the Musical), as well as major event Sydney Symphony Under the Stars featuring sitar star Anoushka Shankar and leading didgeridoo player William Barton. Plus, four-course immersive experience A’amar by Palestinian artist Aseel Tayah and fellow musicians Meena Shamaly and Camille El Feghali, who shared poetry, song and storytelling from their homeland.

Sydney Festival’s newest precinct The Thirsty Mile showcased one of the world’s most exciting cultural districts, enabling a full-swing takeover of beautifully renovated theatre, dance and music spaces across Pier 2/3 and Pier 4/5 across the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. 

Thrilling world-class jazz, a celebration and deconstruction of JS Bach featuring Australia’s finest classical music talent, magnetic dance from around the world, electronic music parties, community dance nights and engaging circus experiences for children and family, were just some of the highlights presented at our dedicated festival hub. 

The lively Banyan Nights took over the Seymour Centre courtyard, bringing the look and feel of a Southeast Asian market, accompanied by White Gold from Cambodia’s beloved Phare Circus, and exquisite puppetry from Indonesia’s Papermoon Puppet Theatre with A Bucket of Beetles

From the wonderfully dedicated volunteers who give their time and energy, to the many expert staff whose skills help realise one of the most complex cultural undertakings in the country, through to the ingenuity and vision of the Festival’s participating artists, and of course you our audience – thank you! 

I’d like to acknowledge Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, patron of Sydney Festival, the NSW Government supporting the festival through Create NSW and Destination NSW, alongside City of Sydney and City of Parramatta, as well as our principal philanthropic supporter Peter Freedman AM, and all of our private supporters and corporate sponsors.

Sincere thanks to our venue and presenting partners including Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney Theatre Company, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bell Shakespeare, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Australian Theatre for Young People, Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Opera House, Riverside Theatres, City Recital Hall, Luna Park, Seymour Centre, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Belvoir St Theatre, Darlinghurst Theatre Company, The Pavilion Performing Arts Centre, Bondi Pavilion, Blacktown Arts, Artspace and many, many more.

We look forward to welcoming you back in 2025 on what always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

Olivia xo 


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