Enlighten Festival returns to illuminate cool Canberra

The Enlighten Festival is back with a bang, lighting the nation's capital in neon technicolour
The Enlighten Festival is back with a bang, lighting the nation's capital in neon technicolour

This article was sponsored by ACT Government

Canberra was named one of the world’s top ten cities to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet, coming in at a nationally unprecedented third on the list – the highest ever listing of an Australian city in the much-revered travel bible. 

Eyebrows were raised, but people who know Canberra were unsurprised. Between the thriving cosmopolitan culture, the seamless merge between designer architecture and natural environment, and the revolving calendar of events, Canberra, a name inspired by the Ngunnawal word meaning ‘meeting’, is cool. 

And that’s not just in reference to the comfortably chilled weather. As the beating heart of the nation’s politics, some of the brightest and best minds in the country can be found sipping espresso or passionately debating each other along Kingston Foreshore. Canberra is also fast becoming known for setting itself alight with festivals –  the legendary Floriade, National Folk Festival, the freshly minted Canberra Writers Festival, and the vibrant and much-celebrated Enlighten Festival

Enlighten Festival's stunning light projections bring iconic buildings to life throughout Canberra.

Enlighten Festival's stunning light projections bring iconic buildings to life throughout Canberra.

This year marks the eighth Enlighten Festival, a 16-day extravaganza in which precincts throughout Canberra transform into hives of activity and excitement. The team at Enlighten have built an extended program jam-packed with a combination of free and ticketed events from 2-18 March. 

Perhaps the star of the show will be the Enlighten Illuminations, Canberra’s clap back to Sydney’s Vivid Festival. Large-scale architectural projections and installations will transform some of the capital’s most iconic buildings including the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Portrait Gallery, National Library of Australia and Questacon.

Two new precincts have been added this year, making the festival bigger and better than ever. The Parliamentary Triangle is set to become a lively stage of Australian entertainers, art installations, live music and performances, while the Australian National University campus will come alive over five huge nights with vivid light projections, fire-side chats and a bustling Saturday night market after twilight falls. Keep an eye out for interactive installations, workshops and other exciting surprises. 

In addition to the Enlighten Illuminations and the new Enlighten precincts, the festival has been extended to include some of Canberra’s most popular autumn events including the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, Symphony in the Park, Lights! Canberra! Action! Canberra Day and Hit104.7 Skyfire. 

For the early risers…

Watching the hot air balloons take flight is a glorious start to the day at Old Parliament House Lawns from 6:15am.

Watching the hot air balloons take flight is a glorious start to the day at Old Parliament House Lawns from 6:15am.

Well worth the early wake up, watch as over 30 hot air balloons from all over the world float dreamily across the city against the golden glow of dawn. From March 10 to 18, head down to Old Parliament House Lawns from 6:15am. You can watch on as a spectator for free, or you can buy a ticket to ride a balloon into the sunrise. 

Resist the sleep in and be rewarded by the incredible designs of the hot air balloons from March 10 to 18.

Resist the sleep in and be rewarded by the incredible designs of the hot air balloons from March 10 to 18.

For film buffs...

Grab your picnic rug, cushions and a chair to enjoy Canberra’s very own short film festival Lights! Canberra! Action!, with twelve short films showing. This year’s theme is Strange, Beautiful and Unexpected, and both budding and seasoned filmmakers have taken it up with gusto, crafting weird and wonderful cinematic interpretations of the idea. Taking place at Senate Rose Gardens on March 9 at 7pm, this event is free. 

Pull up some grass at the Lights! Canberra! Action! film festival at Senate Rose Gardens on March 9 at 7pm.

Pull up some grass at the Lights! Canberra! Action! film festival at Senate Rose Gardens on March 9 at 7pm.

If you’re arty…

The city’s reputation for playing host to some of history’s most influential art is mixed up with an eclectic mix of commissioned artworks and large illuminated and inflated installations, including Metamorphosis, an installation landscape of giant, glowing, musical cocoons; the grotesque creature from the deep which swallows humans whole, Angler Abyss; and the Canberra premiere of the ethereal divers from another place and time in What Lies Beneath? and the illuminated Elaphantessance.

If you’re into music…

Be swept away by the musical prowess of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra at 7pm on March 11.

Be swept away by the musical prowess of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra at 7pm on March 11.

Let the rich and emotive notes wash over you under the stars at a performance by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by tribute band Killer Queen Experience. The event takes place at Stage 88 Commonwealth Park, at 7pm on March 11, and is free. 

Enjoy a picnic on the lawn to the sounds of a classical string quartet and visit the animals at night at the National Zoo and Aquarium at Twilight on the Savannah, or enter the Neon Circus with performers, parades, make-your-own art, dance and giant projections of beautiful artworks at the National Gallery of Australia.

Foodies rejoice…

Crowds enjoy the Enlighten Night Noodle Market, 5pm each weekday and 4pm on weekends.

Crowds enjoy the Enlighten Night Noodle Market, 5pm each weekday and 4pm on weekends.

When it’s time to grab a bite, stimulate your senses at the busy Enlighten Night Noodle Market, where the air will be thick with the smells of delicious Asian street food, with plenty of cool drinks on offer too. The market will start to sizzle at 5pm each weekday and 4pm on weekends. Taking place at Reconciliation Place, the market will also play host to family activities designed to keep the kids happy. 

If you don’t mind a party…

Enjoy a groovy evening at the National Library as they host a sixties-themed festival of sound, colour and activity to celebrate the National Library of Australia’s 50th birthday. There’ll be plenty of local music, dance, entertainment as well as food and drinks. The building’s exterior will come alive with a projection of 1968: Changing Times, a retrospect on the swinging era. 

Canberra Day is a flurry of colour and excitement at Commonwealth Park on the March 12.

Canberra Day is a flurry of colour and excitement at Commonwealth Park on the March 12.

Celebrate the capital’s 105th birthday at a huge party of live music, entertainment, rides and delicious local food for Canberra Day.

Commemorating the official naming of Canberra in 1913, the day will include live performances from home-grown Aussie acts including the hotly anticipated headline act Sheppard. The sibling super-group will be supported by  by Australian teen songwriter and artist E^ST (a.k.a Mel Bester), singer-songwriter and former Triple J Unearthed winner, Ali Barter, and Canberra’s own Lucy Sugerman – former Voice Australia finalist. The celebration will be held at Commonwealth Park on March 12.

Canberra Day celebrations in the park will also include amusement park rides, a food hub with local food traders, beer and cider, and the kids can dance, play and sing the afternoon away with the ever-popular children’s entertainers, Lah Lah’s Big Live Band.

Head along to Hit 104.7 Skyfire for a dazzling display of aerial acrobatics and spectacular fireworks enhanced by a musical broadcast by the popular radio station. The exciting event will be a fitting close to the Enlighten Festival, held March 17 at Regatta Point in Commonwealth Park from 6pm.

The fireworks display is a striking end to a vivid festival, held March 17 at Regatta Point in Commonwealth Park from 6pm.

The fireworks display is a striking end to a vivid festival, held March 17 at Regatta Point in Commonwealth Park from 6pm.

Find out more about Enlighten Festival by heading to the website, enlightencanberra.com.au

KEY DATES

Enlighten Illuminations, Parliamentary Triangle – 2-11 March

Canberra City Precinct – 2-18 March

ANU Precinct – 8-10 March and 15-16 March

Enlighten Night Noodle Markets – 2-11 March

Lights! Canberra! Action! – 9 March

Canberra Balloon Spectacular – 10-18 March

Symphony in the Park – 11 March

Canberra Day – 12 March

Hit 104.7 Skyfire – 17 March

This article was sponsored by ACT Government