Canberra is a pretty awesome place to live most of the time but March is always particularly fun. Canberra Day is the second week of March and the couple of weeks surrounding it are usually packed full of interesting activities. The weather is also pretty good too, hot days, and nights that are starting to turn chilly.
The last 5 or 6 years ‘Enlighten’ has been running during February and March. Every night for 10 days the Capital’s most iconic buildings are lit up for a few hours a night with some amazing architectural projections. This year the festival also included a night noodle market, live music performances and lots of late night openings of galleries, exhibitions and buildings.
For the past few years we have been meaning to go to Enlighten but for one reason or another never get there – probably something to do with either being pregnant, having a newborn and/or toddler. This year I was keen to get some grandparent baby sitting and go out and actually see at least the projections, if not some of the exhibitions.
Grandparent baby-sitting was secured and we just needed to decide what night we wanted to go. After looking at the extensive range of events we decided we mostly wanted to see the projections, but we wouldn’t mind doing the ‘beneath the house tour’ of Parliament House. Of course that tour managed to sell out before we bought tickets so the plan reverted to ‘go see the pretty lights’…..
It turns out that since the whole household was struck down with a nasty virus, and we weren’t feeling up to going anywhere. Let alone wandering around with half of Canberra on a cool dark evening. As we were starting to run out of nights to actually see Enlighten, we decided to suck it up, take the pseudo ephedrine and just go. We decided on Thursday the 4th of March since it was likely to be a little less busy as during the week most of the exhibitions aren’t on and people are just going to the noodle markets and seeing the projections.
The kids were safely tucked up in bed with Grandfather supervision and we headed out about 7pm, with a plan to get there before it got too busy and maybe get some food from the noodle markets before wandering around to see the projections. Despite it being mid-week, it was still insanely busy. It was hard to get a park even at just after 7pm. Having both worked in the Parliamentary triangle for many years we knew where all the sneaky parks were and eventually got one.
We trekked over to check out the noodle markets and wait for it to get dark. We had heard the noodle markets got extremely busy, and people weren’t joking. The lines were already insanely long and growing by the minute. We had a wander, but with no sense of smell and very little appetite due to the virus we decided that the minimum hour long wait to get food wasn’t worth it and left the crowds to wander down to the lake.
As the sun was setting over Lake Burley Griffin, the lights of ‘Voyage [UK] Aetha and Hermera’, 300 illuminated paper boats, started twinkling. Being the 21st Century and all, there was of course an app to control the different lights. Anto had quite a bit of fun with that. It was quite pleasant watching the impressive sun set, seeing all the different patterns and waiting for the projections to start.
It was quite a lovely sunset, and the lake looked beautiful. Once it was well and truly dark at 8pm, the projections began. We then wandered back through the Parliamentary Triangle, amongst the growing crowds to see the projections. Many trees were it up and the noodle markets were still going strong (no chance of getting food any time soon).
The architectural projections transform the buildings of the Parliamentary Triangle. All are colourful, but most have a story or theme and plenty of movement. It is always a challenge taking photos at night and many of the projections had quite a bit of moving imagery which does not photograph well with long exposures. Still we got some nice shots of many of the buildings and enjoyed standing and watching the full light show on all of them.
The featured buildings were: The National Library, Questacon, National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, Old Parliament House, and Australian Parliament House. We visited each in turn. At first the library was my favourite, the projections were extremely well done. Then we saw the National Portrait Gallery. The projection loop would have been at least 15 minutes long and was extremely intricate and detailed. It was amazing watching the projections move around the windows and building panes, and watch the detailed stories unfold, it was probably the standout despite being the least interesting space to project onto. Questacon was one of the most fun projections and Old Parliament House was very clever with it’s political relevance. The photos can’t capture all the detail of the hashtags and political cartoons projections, but we spent ages just looking at them and reading all the detail.
By 9.30pm we were feeling weary and quite hungry and decided to call it a night (we gave up hope of noodle dinner and went home for toast). We didn’t walk up to New Parliament House but drove past on the way home, without stopping to take photos. It was very pretty and any other night we would have been tempted to spend the time getting photos of it. We are hoping that next year we won’t be sick and can enjoy another visit to Enlighten, hopefully with less snot and more energy! We had originally planned to bring the kids back during the final weekend for a noodle market early dinner (they opened at 4pm on weekends) and a look at some of the lights on the lake. Everyone was still too sick though. Maybe next year we will get them there.
Those Canberrans who haven’t been to Enlighten before, try and go next year. Any interstaters March is an awesome time to visit! We also have the balloon festival which is highly kiddy approved. Illness be damned we did make it to see the balloons and a post will be coming up shortly with all the hot-air balloon fun. I hope you enjoyed the Enlighten pictures, I can’t take credit for all photos, Anto did take a fair proportion of these ones. He always manages to leave all the editing to me though!!!