White Night Festival: Up all night

By Rachel Bache

Rachel Bache battles aching feet to take in as much of Melbourne's White Night Festival as she can before sunrise.

The White Night Festival is an all night event in Melbourne, Australia. Photo / Rachel Bache
The White Night Festival is an all night event in Melbourne, Australia. Photo / Rachel Bache

Usually you wouldn't find me walking the streets of a strange city at night - alone. However, this night wasn't your average night and I wasn't exactly alone.

Surrounded by thousands of people, I made my way across eight city blocks of down town Melbourne, taking in as much of the 2014 White Night Festival as I could before sunrise.

With an overwhelming amount options - here's what I got up to from dusk till dawn:

7pm - The night had only just begun, but there were already swarms of people everywhere. Families and groups of friends congregated around the buskers, magicians and live artists that had set themselves up along Southbank.

8pm - With a long night ahead my first stop was at Fatto Bar & Catina, which looks out over the Yarra River, for some delicious crab spaghetti and gelato. It was the perfect spot to people watch as the sun set over the city.

9pm - Just around the corner from Fatto's is the Arts Centre Melbourne which was taking groups on a ghost tour of the theatre's most haunted rooms. After getting freaked out by all the spooky stories, I passed by Tattooed City, which featured beautiful photographs of people covered in tattoos by Nicole Reed, projected onto the walls of the NGV International.

10pm - It was magical strolling through the glowing sculptures, screens and projections in Queen Victoria and Alexandra Gardens. Moving faces projected into trees along the river side made Monuments a real high light, while Crepuscular Beam sent up airy alien-like beams of light into the sky.

11pm - There seem to be more people pulsing though the streets than ever, especially when walking through the Vortex bridge. Watching the hypnotic Midden projection installation was beautiful, but made me start to realise how tired I was getting.

12am - By the time midnight came around I was starting to feel exhausted. I made my way up to Transit Cocktail Lounge to give my tired feet a rest and to enjoy a much-needed espresso martini. It was a great spot to see the thousands venturing around the festival on the streets below.

Tattooed City at White Night Festival, Melbourne. Photo / Rachel Bache
Tattooed City at White Night Festival, Melbourne. Photo / Rachel Bache

1am - After finding a quiet corner to recharge my phone, I was beginning to feel ready for round two. I continued north to check out the intricate patterns being projected on the buildings of Flinders Street that made up Wonderland.

2am - Nestled inside Wonderland was the bizarre Cabinet of Curiosities. The walls of the Forum Theatre played host to the sound of heart beats and monitors, videos of open heart surgeries and a giant thumping heart hologram took centre stage.

3am - The perfect time for an entire crowd of people to dance in unison to Beyonce's Single Ladies in Federation Square, of course. By this time of night I was contemplating calling it quits - but somehow I managed to fight my fatigue and soldier on. Beyonce would have been proud.

4am - Walking up Swanson Street took me past installations and stages of street performers - straight through the centre of the festival. From a circus woman hammering a long nail up her nose, to giant letters spelling out 'Melbourne' that invited people to write what they love most about the city. Now the crowds had died down a little, making it easier to move around, though there were still flocks of punters everywhere.

I made my way up to the State Library to see Molecular Kaleidoscope - projections of beautiful and strange viruses (HIV through to the common cold), magnified one billion times, across the walls and ceiling of the La Trobe Reading Room.

My eyes longed for sleep, and lying on the floor of the library watching the colourful virus patterns change, like they were from some kind of weird dream, wasn't making it any easier. It was time to move on, even though my feet were really starting to ache.

Purple Rain at White Night Festival, Melbourne. Photo / Rachel Bache
Purple Rain at White Night Festival, Melbourne. Photo / Rachel Bache

5am - Umbrellas, man made rain, Prince on repeat and lights giving the space a purple glow. The Purple Rain installation was a joyful and refreshing stop - nothing helps wake you up more at 5am than cold rain on your face.

"I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain", Prince crooned through the speakers, and that's exactly what everyone did. Some jumped around, splashing in the purple puddles, while others slow danced or kissed under their umbrellas.

Just a block down from Purple Rain was The Book of the Night, a room filled with bean bags to sit on as you watch a book being written before your eyes. Twelve writers (one each hour) tackled the task of writing a novel in just one night. It was strange seeing a story take shape without knowing how it began.

6am - By now my feet were really killing me (jandals were a really bad choice), so I decide it was time to start making my way home. Turning into a side street I was met by the Northern Lights Music Stage, where various bands had been playing through out the night. I stayed for a few songs of indie band Fraser A Gorman & Big Harvest, before continuing back onto Swanson Street. The street performers were still going strong and a group of people had even started a giant community game of duck duck goose.

7am - Just as the sun was rising I poured myself into bed. Though I had only really scratched the surface of what White Night had to offer, my night had turned out to be an amazing adventure of colour, lights, music and art. After twelve hours of exploring Melbourne it was definitely time for a snooze.

Further information: See White Night Festival.

Rachel Bache travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Tourism Victoria and Air New Zealand.


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