Sydney Festival: here’s what to expect at the Meriton Festival Village in 2018

Oh you thought Hyde Park was only Sydney’s most exciting destination during October’s Night Noodle Markets? Wrong. Each January Sydney Festival transforms a small but spacious section of the sprawling public park into the Meriton Festival Village, an endlessly exciting hub that dances around pop ups from some of the city’s best food and drink vendors with a dizzying, dazzling, and always daring array of art, music, comedy, theatre and more. It’s easily the hang-out spot in Sydney for the first month of each year, and with the worldly program they’ve got planned for 2018 it’ll be no surprise to see the place filled to the brim each day.

Aside from the free performances and DJs every night, Sydney Festival’s hub will be teeming with stuff to do for those who aren’t heading along to one of the ticketed shows in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. For 2018, the organisers have carefully curated a special Village Sideshow in collaboration with China Southern Airlines, and that’ll be packed with all sorts of interesting and unique activities like a virtual reality, multi-sensory Ghost Train ($10) designed by musician Jonnine Standish filmmaker Jasmin Taraskin, alongside a few other augmented reality and VR experiences; Karaoke Carousel ($5) where hopeful singers/screamers let loose with a microphone while riding a merry-go-round; a series of 10 Minute Dance Parties ($5) inside a converted shipping container; Glitterbox (Free), where brave folk can strut their stuff to their favourite tunes in a transparent glitter filled cube; a pay-what-you-want performance by Madame Tulalah’s Magnificent Box; and the award-winning Temple of Din (Free) by Lucas Abela, where an arcade of hybrid pinball machines and musical instruments will be worked into a unique soundscape. Hell, there’s even going to be a bunch of pop-up shipping container swimming pools this year, plus a few more surprises in store.

10 Minute Dance Parties | Image: Damien Peck

While the Village Sideshow should keep plenty of people busy, there will be a bunch of unmissable and no doubt provocative ticketed events held in the unique Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. Some top picks are:

Briefs: Close Encounters

This show by the world’s most famous globe-trotting “boylesque” group is described as a sci-fi spectacle of “flirty, high-flying artistry” and is a returning favourite from last year’s program, where it enjoyed a sold-out season. Guests can expect an eye-popping show (with some nudity) full of feather dancing, hoop-twirling, juggling, aerial acrobatics and bird-cage contortions. Yep, bird-cage contortions.

6th – 28th Jan | $70-$80 | More info

Aldous Harding

The New Zealand artist is making her way on down to Sydney Festival for one show in the Spiegeltent, bringing her ambitious and delicate gothic-folk to no doubt put on one of the month’s standout concerts. With an album – the excellent Party – out earlier this year, she’s going to have plenty of quality material to pull into a celebration of raw, emotional and profound songwriting.

25th Jan | $39 | More info

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba

Legendary West African musician Bassekou Kouyate will be bringing his band down for two performances at Sydney Festival, highlighting the intensity and simple beauty of the traditional ngoni (which is a form of lute) when incorporated into a soundscape full of kinetic electric blues.

16th – 17th Jan | $39 | More info

Randy Rainbow Live

In this Australian exclusive, renowned political parodist and internet sensation Randy Rainbow will be performing his curious live show across three nights of Sydney Festival. Known for his witty and poignant musical parodies and fake interviews with Donald Trump, this is definitely going to one for those who relish in the more controversial festival performances.

18th – 20th Jan | $39-$49 | More info

The above is but a small snapshot of what’s in store for Meriton Festival Village 2018. We’ll have a better idea of how exactly things will be moving and shaking closer to January, when food and drink details will be announced, but for now get your to-do list out and mark some of these activities down.

Karaoke Carousel

Also, don’t forget there’s even more stuff to do outside of the festival village during those three weeks, mainly focused around the city as well as out west in Parramatta, from the world’s first underwater band (performing on-stage in mini aquariums with custom-made instruments) and an upcycled plastic toy landscape from Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji that kids can get involved in, to a contemporary ballet soundtracked by Jamie XX and a series of talks and concerts across Sydney in some of Harry Seidler’s (the country’s most famous modernist architect) most memorable buildings.

For more details on what’s on at the Meriton Festival Village (6th-28th Jan 2018) head to the official Sydney Festival website HERE.

Featured image: Jamie Williams


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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.

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