Giant sharks are shooting laser beams out of their mouths. Buildings seem to be folding in on each other like that scene from Inception. Kids are attacking each other with light sabers while perched on top of glowing orbs.

Across the harbour, the Sydney Opera House appears to be melting into a blurry plastic mess as ferries speed by in a neon blaze.

It's 10pm on a Friday night and I'm gazing in amazement at Sydney's waterfront which is lit up like a fluorescent light bulb and packed full of so many people it's standing room only.

My first thought is, Where did I put my sunglasses? And my second is, Why the heck aren't we doing this in Auckland?


If you've never been, now is a great time to visit Sydney. Yes, I realise this cliched statement sounds like something a travel agent would say. But it's true.

The city's annual Vivid festival is in full swing, and it's a shining (oops) example of a musical, cultural, arts and entertainment festival that really does have something for everyone.

It looks a bit messy on paper, but it all comes together when you see it in action. Vivid mixes hip, cult and iconic acts performing in great venues (this year it's the Pixies, Lauryn Hill, Pet Shop Boys and St Vincent) with art exhibitions, panel discussions, lighting displays, food stalls and all other kinds of cool stuff.

Some of it's free, some of it's family friendly, almost all of it is awesome.

Gallery: The Vivid Festival

Over its three-week run I could have found something to do every single night - even if it was just wandering around the 56 free art and light installations that draw the masses (one million expected this year) to Sydney's waterfront and surrounding streets.

Seeing as Vivid's getting bigger and better each year, I asked one of the organisers if they'd consider touring Vivid to other cities, like Auckland. He said it's unlikely.

Boo to that, I reckon. Auckland should just go straight ahead and nick the idea. Bear with me, but I think it would work brilliantly. Imagine Ponsonby's brilliant Art in the Dark, but on a city-wide scale with installations adorning streets, boats and buildings around Auckland's waterfront.


I'm no town planner, but everyone agrees it's a vastly under-used and under-utilised area. Whenever I've been down there there's only seagull poo and cigarette butts for company.

As Ponsonby's Franklin Rd proves every December, lights attract people like moths to a flame, so there's no question that something on that scale, done the right way, with the right people involved and the right bands booked, would work.

As Pixies frontman Black Francis told me, when offered the opportunity to be part of Vivid, it took the band "maybe only eight or nine seconds" to say yes.

Best of all, it's an early winter festival - and there's barely anything happening in Auckland during that giant snoozy hole between the end of the Comedy Festival and the beginning of the International Film Festival.

A Vivid-style event would fill that gap nicely. And sorry to bang on about it, but perhaps we could use it as an excuse to refurbish the St James Theatre to home all those awesome bands.

I've sold myself on the idea, so somebody start a petition, because I'd sign it in a neon heartbeat. Now I just need to find my sunglasses.

- TimeOut