White Night’s back, and blazing bright in Bendigo

Join the city-wide party as White Night prepares to awe visitors and locals alike, and Bendigo throws itself in the creative spotlight

White Night is back. The event that became a visual sensation in Melbourne, starting in 2013, picked up roots and moved to regional Victoria in 2018. Presented by the City of Bendigo, it mustered a massive 60,000 people to the historic town – its buildings awash with light projections, and truly fitting the buzz around a rise in cultural tourism.

But COVID put a dampener on this growing event, with White Night 2020 and 2021 cancelled.

Joseph O’Farrell, Creative Director of White Night Bendigo told ArtsHub that ‘you can just sense it on the street,’ the anticipation for its return next month, with people hungry for a repeat.

‘Bendigo is such an incredible city that knows the power of an arts event and what it can give to a community,’ said O’Farrell.

‘White Night started in France and has traditionally just been one night of throwing the city open to all possibilities, for people to engage with art and see the city scape as never before,’ he continued.

Bendigo will again be light up on Saturday 3 September from 7.00pm – 1.00am, for an all-in, cross arts, immersive, one-night party.

Highlights for White Night 2022

The theme for White Night 2022 is ‘everything on the land is reflected in the sky’. Program details have been announced today (17 August).

‘Young people and families get to see their city reimagined – they will never forget that moment. Then you blink, and it’s the next day and the city returns to normal. It is kind of magical. That’s what makes White Night special,’ said O’Farrell.

An artist and musician himself, O’Farrell says he knows how tough it has been these past two years. ‘It has been wonderful to engage as many local and regional artists as possible to present and perform to their city, their people and their surrounding regions.’

He said that around 224 musicians have been engaged – from Congolese hip hop to all female rock bands, opera schools and marching bands – across White Night Bendigo, and Geelong which follows with its own program.

A city wide event, White Night also activates Rosalind Park with light works. Installation view 2018. Image supplied.

Among the highlights, O’Farrell mentioned a light projection work created with the local deaf community to activate the Conservatorium’s façade, while another has involved local schools.

The colouring-in project by Jim Coade, aka Video Architecture, captures the drawings of 120 primary aged youth creators over a suite of workshops.

‘We thought, we have all these resources as part of staging White Night so what can we offer to schools? We gave them the opportunity to draw their own projections onto a template, which will be screened onto the side of Old Post office,’ explained O’Farrell.

‘Definitely among the big ticket items are the projections by The Electric Canvas at the intersection of View St and Pall Mall, which, for the first time, include the work of First Nations artists – Troy Firebrace and Natasha Carter. Also in Rosalind Park, audiences can view Faces of Djarra – projected into the park’s trees.  Faces of Djarra is a celebration of determination, resilience and presence that reflects the faces of local Traditional Owners – we are so excited about these beautiful works,’ he said.

More than light projections

‘We have asked ourselves how can we be as inclusive and as accessible as possible in our programming,’ said O’Farrell. ‘We understand how transformative art can be, and even if it’s just tapping your toe at the bandstand you are engaging with art.’

The city will be activated by six sites with building projections, together with a focus on live music performance, and street food. Further, Pall Mall, View Street and Rosalind Park will also be activated with lighting treatments.

‘View Street will have a bit of a New Orleans feel, with musicians playing from balconies overhanging the street, while on Pall Mall we will have drag queens and free lessons at a street dance studio.

‘For first time ever, we have stretched White Night to include the Dai Gum San Chinese Precinct, which is so important to Bendigo. We are putting an Asia Pop DJ there with a whole lot of screens with content by local filmmakers. It will be new culture meets traditional culture at this space.

‘And, another big item is The Guardian by a Blank Canvas, a huge golden lion 10 metre long and 4 metres high. It’s a magical creature roving through the gardens, in Rosalind Park,’ O’Farrell said.

White Night is the poster child for tourism

Undeniably, White Night attracts visitors to the city, as equally as it encourages locals to head out for a night stroll.

The last edition of the event, and its regional debut in 2018, delivered a $5.5 million boost to the local economy.

‘For this event, we do not only address accessibility and diverse inclusion, but we also have a major economic impact to the city as we come out of cancelled events,’ said O’Farrell. ‘Bendigo City Council is incredible. I have walked the streets with them pre- and post-Covid; we want to fill those shops with people eating food and engaging with art and this incredible city.’

He concluded: ‘An event like this hasn’t happened for so long that you forget the experience of this communal setting; being with peers, friends and part of a city. For me, it will inspire me for the next six months.’

White Night Bendigo will take place on Saturday 3 September from 7.00pm to 1.00am. Check out the program, or just come along and be awed.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina