Animating our Public Spaces

As individual as we are, we need to find moments when we can come together in a public space. For me, these moments should be filled with notions of beauty, awe and wonder that trigger conversation, inspiration and civic pride.

The canvas of a public space provides an ideal opportunity to bring these threads together, weave moments of positive collision between people and ideas and fuel conversation.

Photo © Theresa Famularo

Whether the animation of a public space is purely for entertainment, or aimed at rebirthing a place with a new narrative, it is the conversations that occur, the photos that are taken and the exchanges in person and on social media that are important.

It is these special moments that deepen the connection between people and place. They provide the opportunity for people to see the place through an alternative lens and instil a sense of civic pride and a legacy of greater connection between place and those who reside there.

From this base, positive economic flow then ensues.

Sydney New Year’s Eve

Sydney New Year’s Eve has become globally recognized event without a cent spent on marketing. The celebratory animation of Sydney Harbour and notably Sydney Harbour Bridge, has become an annual ritual for Sydney residents.

Word of mouth naturally became the marketing tool. Highlights from the night, shared by Sydney-siders with family and friends, turned this event, originally formalized to re-orientate public behaviour, into one of the strongest economic tourism drivers into Sydney.

Annually, this spectacle contributes new revenue in excess of AU$156 million (US$120 million) to the local economy. A greater return than any other activation, sporting or other event held Australia. The animation that celebrates the shift of time from one year to the next is witnessed by 1.6 million people on the foreshore of Sydney and by over 1 billion via international broadcast.

Sydney New Year’s Eve – Photo © Theresa Famularo

Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney is an 18-day event in the middle of winter created to enliven this economically quiet period in the city.

Creative industries are invited to showcase their talent and creativity in prime public spaces that are usually costly or difficult to access.

The invitation to the creative industries is essential to ensure the continued opportunity for innovation and exhibition and build sustainability into the event model. Added to this is the opportunity for business-to-business networking and the collision of innovator, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and the public. This friction fuels new conversations.

These networking conversations have paired startups with venture capital, allowing them to grow beyond Australia into the UK.

During Vivid Sydney, all this action goes on show to the public, showcasing the city through a re-imagined lens. This inspirational period of 18 days builds civic pride, spurred by word of mouth, and ultimately produces a positive economic flow.

From its original inception six years ago, Vivid Sydney has travelled a great distance. It has become a celebrated event that delivers a boost of over AU$30 million (US$23 million) to the local economy with over 30,000 international business and leisure tourists. This, in addition to the new business-to-business commitments agreed between companies and the public, enables both parties to witness innovation in a tangible form and see their town sparkle.

These examples highlight how the positive benefits of animating public space are exponential. In order to ensure success, we must always consider the public, the space and the animation. The connection of these combined elements beam out infinite possibilities of creativity and innovation.

Vivid Sydney – Photo © Theresa Famularo

Theresa will participate in a panel discussion entitled Animating our Public Spaces at the New Cities Summit in Jakarta.The panel is curated by the Global Cultural Districts Network.