White night is an annual festival that turns the centre of the city to an art gallery with sound and light shows, art installations and other performances all night or during night-time, allowing spectators a free show. The festival evolved from the Helsinki Festival’s Night of Art which was in 1989. The “Stars of the White Nights” festival was organised in St Petersburg in Russia in 1993 and since then annually with music and other art and culture shows, throughout the night, celebrating end of school year during summer. Many cities around the globe took inspiration from it and began the night-time celebrations, but majority of them during winter. In 2002, Paris staged an all-night festival celebrating its contemporary art.
On 23rd February 2013, Melbourne held its first White Night Festival with roaring success, which was attended by a crowd of 300,000. 2014 saw 500,000 people flocking to the city and an even more elaborate celebrations and a further expansion in 2015. The 2016 White night was attended by around 600,000 people nearly the double of what 2013 festival could attract. The Saga continued in 2017 and 2018 in similar fashion.
In 2019, “White Night Reimagined” was moved to the winter month of August and was a 3-day festival. With fewer venues, rain and the chilly winter coupled with the flu season made it a big failure and it failed to attract as many people as it did in previous years. But the organisers claimed around 700,000 people attended the 3 day spectacle, which is a very much inflated figure.
Unlike previous years, this was not an all-night festival. On 22nd and 23rd August it lasted from 7pm to 12am and on 24th from 7pm to 2am, which made it a before bedtime festival.
But the art installations and programs were as good or better than previous years. Moving the festival to city’s adjacent parks made it easier to get around and caused less traffic disruption in the city. For three consecutive nights, three of Melbourne’s iconic park precincts – Birrarung Marr, Treasury Gardens and Carlton Gardens underwent transformation to host White Night Reimagined.
In 2020, Melbourne International Art festival will cease to exist and will be merged with White Night. The yet-to-be-named festival is expected to follow the footsteps of Vivid of Sydney and Dark Mofo of Hobart but will remain uniquely Melbourne. With the combined budget of both Melbourne International Art Festival and White Night, the new festival is assumed be much larger with a broader scope and canvass.