Arts / Lights, action, eat… it’s Enlighten time!

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“Neon Circus” performers will meet giant projections of artworks at the National Gallery.

WITH this year’s triple imperative to “eat, see and explore”, the Enlighten Festival can proudly boast that it will be illuminating Canberra for its eighth year over the coming 16 days.

Transforming the capital with after-dark attractions, Enlighten successfully blends arts events with the razzle-dazzle of mainstream entertainment.

A case in point is “Neon Circus”, on March 2-3 at the National Gallery, where “neon circus” performers meet giant projections of artworks. Visitors can join in by creating their own digital avatars in the weird section “NGA Play: Indieguerillas” then parade in head dresses inspired by local fauna around gravity-defying sculpture and later hit the floor of the NGA’s grand Gandel Hall for the global dance craze “No Lights No Lycra”.

Canberra Glassworks is also pursuing the neon theme, with Harriet Schwarzrock’s pulsating life-size glass hearts filled with neon gas.  

The normally respectable National Library is urging patrons to “get groovy” as it celebrates 50 years since the building opened in 1968. In keeping with the era of its birth, Friday nights will allow children to “twist and shout”, while on Saturday nights, talent such as Brass Knuckle Brass Band and Jack Biilmann will perform ’60s tunes. All the while, projections will light up the classic building’s exterior.

Enlighten projection at the National Library.

Around the corner, staff of the Museum of Australian Democracy, at Old Parliament House, will stay up with after-hours openings of galleries and King’s Hall will be home to a new collaborative art installation.

Deep in the bowels of Parliament House, geologist Wolf Mayer will take visitors on an excursion to view the “unconformity” of a rare rock formation where two rock masses, 10 million years apart in age, meet underneath the very meeting-place of politicians.

These days the Enlighten Festival is not restricted to the Parliamentary Triangle, so across Lake Burley Griffin, the Australian National Botanic Gardens’ “Light and Dark Night Tours” encourage exploration by lantern on these ranger-guided tours – followed by dessert.

At the National Film and Sound Archive there will be similar exploratory tours and showings of films such as “Abra Cadabra”, a 3D cosmic fantasy film based loosely on the Pied Piper and voiced by John Farnham and Jacki Weaver. Naturally, 3D “abra goggles” will be provided.

Even the Canberra International Music Festival has leapt into the act by staging the appropriately-titled “Lights on Luminescence” at the National Portrait Gallery. That’s a reference to the eight young Canberra vocalists who make up the Luminescence Chamber Singers – this time joined by DJ Mr Michael and his electric violin.

There are bands, exhibitions, roving performers, giant architectural projections, exotic food, balloons, fireworks, symphonic music in the park and a big happy birthday celebration at the end, all aimed at lighting up the nation’s capital.

Enlighten Festival 2018, most major events are free. Booking details at

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Helen Musa
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