Firelight Festival to return after two-year hiatus

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David Schout

After successive cancellations due to COVID-19, Firelight Festival will return to Docklands in July for a three-night celebration of the winter solstice.

Last hosted in 2019 and attracting more than 75,000 people over three days, the popular event at Victoria Harbour will again focus on family, community, food, music, fire and light.

The waterfront will be transformed from Friday, July 1 to Sunday, July 3 with fire drums and flames, popup stages, large fire sculptures, and roving performers.

On all three evenings, four “liquid, light and laser” shows (featuring lasers, LED lighting and water jets) will be delivered at two sites across Victoria Harbour, each lasting six minutes.

Councillors endorsed the 2022 event, which was set to cost $1 million, at a May 17 Future Melbourne Committee meeting held at The Hub at Docklands on Harbour Esplanade.

The 2019 Firelight Festival reportedly pumped $4 million into the local economy, and the council’s City Activation portfolio chair Cr Roshena Campbell said a similar injection was required.

“Boy, do we know they need that now,” Cr Campbell said.

 

We’re delighted that we’re proceeding with the Docklands Firelight Festival again, because we know that businesses across Docklands tell us one thing loud and clear, and that’s that they want visitors back.

 

Cr Campbell said it was important to provide incentives to visit the city in the colder months.

“I’m thrilled that this is a winter event. We know that our city so naturally comes alive in summer, but in winter — particularly after two years of COVID — people want to hibernate. We want to give them a reason to come back to the city … we want to encourage people to stay in the precinct, to spend at the businesses in the precinct. And we want to give them a fantastic offering to give them every reason to do that.”

These thoughts were echoed by Cr Davydd Griffiths.

“I know from when I used to run a business around the corner [from The Hub] on Spencer St, just how important activation in this part of the world is for assisting small businesses in the area to stay afloat,” he said.

“I hope it’s something that encourages people in nearby suburbs like West Melbourne, like North Melbourne, those who live in the CBD and Port Melbourne, to come down and find new spaces nearby to them that perhaps they haven’t experienced before.”

Beyond the showcase liquid, light and laser shows, the 2022 edition of Firelight Festival will also feature:

Musical performances from a range of genres, including audience favourites Mariarchi Los Romanticos, local jazz group The Sugarfoot Ramblers, West African drummer Kofi Kunkpe, and The Brunswick Women’s Choir.

An immersive lighting installation at Docklands Central Park.

Warm food offerings including smoked meats, soup, woodfire pizza and hot chocolate.

Cr Jamal Hakim, a Docklands local, said the return of Firelight was an important moment after a difficult period.

“It has been really disappointing in the last couple of years that we haven’t been able to have Firelight right here in Docklands, so I’m really excited that the event is back,” he said.

“We are building a really strong calendar in the winter for events, and this is one of those. What better way to warm up than with Firelight.”

Development Victoria’s group head precincts Geoff Ward said it was pleased to support the council to host Firelight Festival again after its two-year absence.

“It’s fantastic to have the Firelight Festival back on the Docklands events calendar,” Mr Ward said.

“It’s always a popular event, bringing tens of thousands of people to the precinct to celebrate the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, giving local businesses a much-needed boost.”

“Events like the Firelight Festival are helping bring back the vitality of the Docklands precinct and we’re pleased to support the City of Melbourne to host the 2022 event after an absence of two years.”

Other event funding announced in the City of Melbourne’s latest budget include $6.4 million for the Christmas Festival, $4.9 million for Moomba, $3.9 million for New Year’s Eve and $2.9 million for Melbourne Fashion Week. •

 

Caption: Docklands’ Firelight Festival attracted 75,000 visitors when it was last held in 2019.

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