Docklands fires back to life

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Sean Car

Following its two-year hiatus due to COVID, Firelight Festival returned to Docklands with roaring success last month with record crowds eclipsing the numbers most recently seen in 2019.

Kicking off on Friday, July 1 on a perfect winter’s night in Melbourne, the precinct was buzzing from NewQuay right across to Victoria Harbour as fire twirlers, roving entertainers, musicians and light displays kept the huge crowds entertained.

With more traffic reported to have visited the Firelight website than Moomba’s in the lead-up to the event, a whopping 95,000 people attended across the three nights – an increase of 20 per cent from 2019’s numbers.

The City of Melbourne reported that pedestrian activity near NewQuay across the weekend was up 1069 per cent on the previous week, and up 59 per cent compared to the 2019 Firelight Festival.

And while Friday night was supported by Carlton versus St Kilda at Marvel Stadium, the highest activity recorded was on Sunday July 3, with evening activity up 2857 per cent on the previous week, and 40 per cent higher than the final night of the 2019 Firelight Festival.

The festival resulted in a boon for traders right around Victoria Harbour, with the 30,000-plus nightly crowds evenly spread and ideal winter weather blessing the precinct across the three nights.

Co-owner of NewQuay restaurants Cargo and Berth Jerry Dimas told Docklands News it was “fantastic to see Docklands firing again”.

“It was really positive; Berth was booked out and we had people waiting for tables the whole night at Cargo. A lot of our customers were first-time customers, which was really great,” he said.

“If we can do a couple more events throughout the year would be great. The precinct is such a better place when there are people everywhere.”

Docklands Chamber of Commerce executive officer Shane Wylie described the festival as “an amazing success.”

“Firelight displayed that Victorians still have a hunger for a well-managed and engaging event,” Mr Wylie said. “Docklands saw all-time record crowds across the entire weekend with Saturday night easily being the biggest in the precinct’s entire history.”

“Aside from the exceptional pre-event marketing, what we saw was word-of-mouth feedback generating organic enthusiasm. Social media was filled with – ‘how good is this? And it’s free!’.”

“It was beautiful to see crowds spill all around the harbour and to neighbouring restaurants, bars and retailers. Obviously, an event like this is incredibly expensive to host, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to see elements of the activation here permanently?”

“Amazing credit to the City of Melbourne team for managing and hosting the best Firelight yet and another thanks to Development Victoria for continuing to support Docklands events.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the council was “delighted” with this year’s “record crowds” at the Firelight Festival, which he said, “came back bigger and better than ever.”

“This is another example of our community wanting to get out of the house and into the city with their loved ones as we continue delivering our record spend of $34 million on events this year,” Cr Reece said.

“Festivals like this have immense flow-on effects for our traders with the majority of visitors choosing to dine or shop in the city before or after their event.”

“Melbourne is certainly not hibernating over winter, and as a council we are incredibly proud of our packed events calendar which is ensuring our city thrives over the chillier months.” •

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