White Night Geelong: The globally recognised late-night spectacle of culture, art and music returns 

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White Night Geelong: The globally recognised late-night spectacle of culture, art and music returns 

White Night Bendigo. Image Credit: Stuart Walmsley
Words by Talia Rinaldo

The overnight art party that is White Night is back, making its colourful return to Geelong this October, transforming the city streets, parklands, laneways, public spaces and cultural institutions with spectacular illuminated art, interactive installations, live music, street food and colourful projections.

Having already beguiled audiences in Bendigo in September, White Night now makes its way to Geelong for the first time since 2018, bringing every corner of each city’s past, present and future to life. The much-loved event will take place on Saturday 8 October 7pm to 1am, boasting a program bigger, bolder, and bursting with creativity and colour in what will be a transformative celebration of the regional Victorian city.

Years in the making, private and public spaces from Gheringhap Street to Johnstone Park will be invigorated with a surge of free and family-friendly programming reflecting this year’s theme, ‘Everything on the land is reflected in the sky’. 

Stay up to date with all the epic events happening in and around the region here.


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“The theme of White Night Bendigo and Geelong relates to First People’s knowledge of astrology and astronomy, and that was designed in consultation with the Djaara [Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation],” explains Creative Director of White Night, Joseph O’Farrell – an acclaimed multi-art performer, producer, curator, facilitator, musician and lecturer who has made work internationally from his home base in Melbourne for the past 17 years. 

“We wanted artists to think about the night sky, as well as our environment and the country that we are placing the two events on; for them to think about the constellations, but also having a fun think about Aliens and UFOs and cheeky accessible concepts like that. It’s all about coming up with different access points for all our different audiences of different ages.”

Harnessing the industrial legacy of this unique city, White Night celebrates its automotive culture and celebrated design – Australia’s first city to be awarded UNESCO City of Design – with bold and bright artworks and music from across the Bellarine. 

Guided by the theme, audiences can expect to be wowed by a world-class lineup of stunning light displays, celestial oddities, street eats and powerful, diverse voices. 

“For us, White Night is all about that big wow factor. We’ll have those big illuminative takeovers of buildings that overlook Johnston park, but then we’ve also programmed big works that will capture the audience’s imagination, all tied to the theme in a loose and accessible way,” O’Farrell says. 

“One highlight includes a world premiere of a work called ‘Unplugged’ by internationally acclaimed inflatable art sculpture company, Airena. This sees a giant sculpture of a brain that you can see yourself reflected in with all the neurons dancing around like electrical currents, asking audiences to think about the brain and our connection to social media, but also our evolution and how that connects to the world around us.

“White Night Geelong is continuing to have these hallmarks of those big wow moments and projections where people can stop and have a selfie like this, but we’re bringing also more and more community members, regional artists, local musicians and diverse people of the public into creating works for the event.”


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Highlights within the spectacularly bold after-dark program include The Electric Canvas, who will bring Johnstone Park to life with awe-inspiring projections from First Nations artists Kait James, Billy-Jay O’Toole and Jenna Oldaker; projections of 40 portraits of community members by Elements of Culture in partnership with Cultura Pako Festa; and the world premiere from critically-acclaimed local projection artist Matt Bonner with ‘Alignment’ at City Hall, which explores First People’s connection to the land and night sky.

A 10-metre-long magical, golden, lion-like creature shimmering in crystal shards, The Guardian from Melbourne-based A Blanck Canvas will roam the streets, while Unuscornu sees a nine-metre-high unicorn head pulse with light, shining as a spectacular beacon of hope to all who see it.

There will also be glowing playable musical instruments and neon sharks, dolphins, crabs and octopi on the Geelong Foreshore; inflatable gum nut flowers in Bloom within Johnstone Park; glowing baby eels on the waterfront; and giant tetrapods undulating like waves breaking on the coastline. 

Geelong Gallery will open its doors after hours as it comes alive with Barbara Brash’s Holding Form, Brook Andrew’s Hope, Peace, and Paradise, Rose Nolan’s It’s Hard To See What All This Means and the National Gallery Touring Exhibition Spowers and Syme; and The Project Space will host a diverse exhibition of local and interstate artists for On Screen.

Steampacket Gardens transforms into an escape from the hustle and bustle in Imaginary Botanicals by The Indirect Object and locals from Rosewall and Coverdale community centres, where visitors can sit amongst the handcrafted flowers and listen to them sigh, yawn and buzz. Elsewhere, it’s three of Geelong’s beloved icons that are doing the talking; a carousel pony; a twin lion at City Hall; and the grand bandstand in Johnstone Park all have a story to tell in The Object Monologues from Barking Spider Visual Theatre.

Also at Deakin University’s Waterfront façade The Project Space, will be two performances and an exhibition by Deakin alumni; the bodies of land-bound dancers are reflected in an imagined sky world in Virtual Now; lost, borrowed, stolen and copied texts are sung, pitch-shifted, blended and performed in Fugue State; and an exhibition of 20 works by artists and designers who have gone through Deakin University’s Geelong-based creative arts and design programs in Sky’s the Limit.

For the very special return event, White Night will also see the inclusion of O’Farrell’s (JOFMAKESART) own work, Heavy Metal. Located in the middle of Gheringhap street, Heavy Metal is a high-octane, thrilling performance piece where across the night (every half hour), a car is crushed by an industrial car crusher into a cube of twisted metal, accompanied by the guitar riffs of two heavy metal, head-banging rock musicians and sparks and flames.

“So that’s a little a nod to the car culture that exists in Geelong and obviously the Ford connection as well, but also a nod to heavy metal music and hard rock, which Geelong also does really well.”

Further celebrating the thriving local music scene, the Homegrown Stage and Steampacket Soundz will see emerging and established artists from the Bellarine perform under the stars. Taking place on Fenwick Street, the Homegrown Stage will see the likes of Hassall, Mundane Jane, Chitra, Baraka The Kid, Sirens and Operation Karma all soundtrack the evening, while Steampacket Soundz will feature Loud and Deadly, The Hacketts, Soul Sista Swing, TGK, Freedom Fly, and The Big Blue.


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Meanwhile, Pop up Performers will perform along Western Beach Road, with Funky Bunny, Darth Vader and DJ Dangerboots playing all night, and Drag City will feature some of Australia’s best drag artists in an unforgettable medley of entertainment and fun for everyone. 

Giving young people the opportunity to draw on the city they live in, O’Farrell has got Castlemaine-based artist Jim Coad and his company Video Architecture on board with Colouring in Competition. Using vibrant digital colours, this large-scale work sees local kids’ art projected onto their biggest canvas yet.

“Here we’ve invited up to 100 young people to create artwork that will be projected onto the corner of Gheringhap Street and Mallop Street on that beautiful building facade. 

“We’ve had a whole heap of free workshops in schools where we’ve given kids the opportunity to create all these beautiful artworks and in that process, we’ve targeted schools in low socioeconomic areas as well as workshop programs that intersect with primary school students with lived experience of disability,” O’Farrell says. 

“On the night, these children will see their artworks projected onto the walls of that beautiful building. So on one side, you’ll see these beautiful, polished, amazing projections by the Electric Canvas and Matt Bonner; and then as you turn to walk down Gheringhap Street, there’ll be these colourful, beautiful drawings from local young kids.”

“For me, that’s what the privilege of being the creative director of this event is: we have the opportunity to create all these memories and experiences for families, but especially young kids who for two years have never seen an event like this. So for me, that’s what’s special about this night.”

Originally conceived in Paris in 2002, White Night celebrates its 20th year this October, arriving in Geelong to celebrate the many and varied cultural gems burgeoning beyond Melbourne, where White Night no longer exists, replaced by arts festival RISING. 

A night-time event like no other, this experience will inspire friends and families from near and far to embrace the wonders of Geelong and regional Victoria like never before this October. 

White Night Geelong takes place across Johnstone Park, Gheringhap Street, Western Beach Road and Steampacket Gardens Saturday 8 October, 7pm – 1am. Find out more here