Pull on a woolly beanie for glowing lights, cherry blossoms and ice-skating, plus plays, music, films and festivals for every Sydney culture-lover in winter.
A is for art
The prized pinnacle of Australian portraiture, , alongside the equally cherished Wynne and Sulman prizes (Art Gallery of NSW, until August 28), offers works by 115 artists in various mediums. Ogle likenesses of artist Patricia Piccinini, journalist Laura Tingle, drag performer Courtney Act, Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott and Packing Room prize-winner, filmmaker Taika Waititi (NZ-born, yes, yes) and works by artists including Wendy Sharpe, Yvette Coppersmith, Anh Do, Blak Douglas, Vincent Namatjira and Kathrin Longhurst. Don’t miss S. H. Ervin Gallery’s alternative selection, (until July 24).
B is for blooms
Flowers? In winter? Go forth petal-lovers to Sydney Cherry Blossom Festival (Auburn Botanic Gardens, August 20-28), NSW’s largest flower festival, featuring thousands of flourishing buds, Japanese music, pop culture and fusion food, with on-site Izakaya bar.
C is for comic books
Grab Thor’s hammer, slip on a Spider-Man suit and charter your invisible plane to (Sydney Showground, June 18-19), a two-day pop culture fan fiesta of fan-clubs and exhibitors celebrating comics, sci-fi, fantasy, anime and gaming.
D is for dinner
Nosh up at the inaugural (the Ivy Ballroom, June 4), with a table menu created by Mr. Wong’s Dan Hong and Totti’s Mike Eggert, talks by journalist Julia Baird and artist Ken Done and music from trumpeter James Morrison and actor, writer and singer Virginia Gay.
E is for Eora Nation
Bangarra Dance Theatre traverses the desert homelands of the Walmajarri in (Sydney Opera House, June 30 to July 23). Gather with artists, designers and makers from community-owned art centres around Australia at the third annual (Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, July 2-3).
F is for films
Fill up the soup flask for the 69th (June 8-19, multiple venues) for acclaimed Australian artist Del Kathryn Barton’s feature debut Blaze, Baz Luhrmann’s high-octane portrait of the King, Elvis, and multi-award-winning Geelong theatre company Back to Back theatre’s film debut, Shadow. Don’t miss the (Palace Norton and Central, the Chauvel, until June 19) or the (Ritz Cinemas, until June 13) for kids aged 3-16.
G is for guitar licks
Trailblazing Sydney punks the Hard-Ons (The Factory, June 2), with new lead singer Tim Rogers, dig into 40 years of thrash before New York City art-punk indie rockers, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs (The Hordern, July 24), led by vocalist, pianist and style maven Karen O, arrive, and lo-fi garage rockers the Strokes (Hordern Pavilion, July 28, 29).
H is for harmony
Melodies abound at (Tumbalong Park, until June 18), Vivid’s curated music program featuring Hot Potato Band, Haiku Hands, Jezabels frontwoman Hayley Mary, The More Please Orchestra and more.
I is for ice-skating
Polish your lutz jump at the (Bondi Beach, July 1-17), a 17-day seaside theatre, comedy and music festival with an all-ages ice rink, 32-metre high Bondi Vista Ferris Wheel and art and theatre pop-ups. Keep skating at (Koshigaya Park, July 1-17), or watch icy extravaganza (Sydney Olympic Park, July 13-17) with characters from Frozen, Moana, Coco, Tangled and Beauty and the Beast singing and dancing on skates.
J is for jousting
Battle for glory and honour at (Hawkesbury Showground, July 2,3) amid lance-bearing knights, archery contests, Vikings combat, 14th-century medicine and medieval banquets.
K is for kids
Enter the smelly, mean, dirty trick universe of (Sydney Opera House, July 2-17) or pratfall with the best at Let’s Make A Circus Show (SOH, July 10-16), a Flying Fruit Fly Circus’ workshop.
L is for laughs
The temperature’s no joke, so crack funnies with these homegrown gag-meisters: Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor lead mini-comedy festival (Sydney Opera House, June 1-2); invincible Instagram parody star Celeste Barber scorches pretension in Fine, Thanks (State Theatre, June 2); Sam Simmons bends carefully in The Knees Show (Sydney Opera House, June 2-3); Geraldine Hickey presents Now I’ve Got A Boat (Sydney Opera House, June 3); and Dan Ilic’s satirical podcast celebrates 10 Years of a Rational Fear! (Sydney Opera House, June 4). Award-winner Rhys Nicholson returns with Rhys! Rhys! (Comedy Store, July 7-8); Lano and Woodley debut Moby Dick (Enmore Theatre, July 8-9; Concourse, July 15-16) and Judith Lucy and Denise Scott are Still Here (Enmore June 10 and July 10; Concourse, June 11-12).
M is for musicals
Take a spoonful of theatre magic at (Lyric Theatre, until July 17), swoon with star-crossed lovers Christian and Satine in (Capitol Theatre, until September 25), croon Britney, *NSYNC and Goo Goo Dolls at (State Theatre, June 30 to July 10) or sit ringside as moves to Parramatta (Riverside Theatre, June 16-25). Still time to catch (Theatre Royal, until July 2).
N is for neighbourhood
The (NSW Parliament House, June 8-9), helmed by writer and comedian HG Nelson and broadcaster James Valentine, join Vivid to reinforce our city’s future: Plan. Build. Demolish. Repeat.
O is for opera
Tragedy, large wigs, blisteringly impossible love – Opera Australia’s winter season delivers Graeme Murphy’s production of (Sydney Opera House, June 29 to July 30); Stacey Alleaume as Violetta in (SOH, July 5 to November 4); (SOH, July 15-30); (SOH, July 17-October 30) and Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s (SOH, August 19 to October 16).
P is for politics
Watch , master of gripping political dramas (The West Wing, A Few Good Men), chat with ABC 7:30 presenter Leigh Sales about mirroring real life on screen (State Theatre, June 1) before exploring Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s home suburb, Marrickville, on the Inner West Ale Trail, a celebration of 11 independent craft breweries (daily, ).
Q is for queer
Celebrate Sydney’s LGBTQIA+ history at (Powerhouse Museum, June 16), a sequinned cavalcade of queer talks, short films, archival footage and photos, disco hoofing and a fashion parade featuring Cindy Pastel, Tacky Onassis, Porcelain Alice, Sexy Galexy and more.
R is for réjouissance
French for revelry and the basis of the 8th Bastille Festival (The Rocks, Circular Quay, July 14-17), four days of fine cheese, wine, bread, pastries and meats alongside live music, art and markets. Très grand.
S is for stage
Escape the cold with fiery, warming, heated and sultry theatre works for every palette. Catch Merlynn Tong’s Singapore money and gangster drama (Griffin, June 24 to July 30); MTC’s (Belvoir, June 2 to July 10), Kunst’s (25A, Belvoir Downstairs, June 15-25); bonnet-drama (Roslyn Packer Theatre, June 21 to July 16), Ewen Leslie in (Roslyn Packer Theatre, August 3 to September 3), Bell Shakespeare’s (SOH, August 17 to September 17) and schoolteacher black comedy (Drama Theatre, September 15 to October 29).
T is for tennis
A celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, through tennis, the (Sydney Olympic Park, June 4, 5) is a free event featuring coaching, match play and cultural actives. Open to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders people who play tennis at local or competitive level.
U is for undulating
Artist Lauren Brincat releases 190-square-metres of flowing, floating, pulsingly colourful silk fabric in (Sydney Opera House steps, June 3-4), a mammoth moving sculpture accompanied by drummers, for Vivid.
V is for Vivid
The heart of the wintry festival is glowing nights. Stroll the Light Walk (Sydney Foreshore, until June 18) the longest continuous illumination trail in Vivid’s history, stretching eight kilometres from the Sydney Opera House to Central Station. Guidance comes from more than 200 LED sculptural birds, part of artist Chris Daniel’s Future Natives installation.
W is for winter solstice
The shortest day, the longest night, time for nature and rejuvenation at the Winter Solstice Festival (Camperdown Commons, June 18), a free get-together featuring lawn sack races, a produce market, compost and growing greens workshops and a tour of the Pocket City farm.
X is for X-mas
It’s cold! Play Christmas games, sing Yuletide tunes and sip mulled wine at Tinseltown (Entertainment Quarter, July 6-31), a Christmas-themed pop-up bar with family-friendly sessions. Prizes abound for ugliest Christmas jumper.
Y is for yarn
Revel in cable stitch and loosely twisted skeins at the (Sydney Olympic Park, June 29 to July 3), a woollen wonderland of knitters, quilters and embroiderers.
Z is for zoo
Pining for more nighttime illumination? (Bungarribee, until June 18) twinkles with giant glimmering animal sculptures, kinetic light swings, a glowing golf course, a 12-metre light tunnel, a shimmering ferris wheel and a UV light safari.
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