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Vivid Director Gill Minervini On Glowing Up the Festival’s Creativity for 2023

Christie Eliezer
Vivid Director Gill Minervini On Glowing Up the Festival’s Creativity for 2023

No sooner had Gill Minervini’s debut year as director and producer of Vivid Sydney 2022 finished to record crowds and acclaim for its technology wizardry that she and her 16-strong team begun work on the 2023 edition.

Returning between May 26 to June 17 after a two year Covid-forced hiatus, Vivid 2022 had the largest opening weekend in its history with 435,000 patrons, and a final record crowd number of 2.58 million.

Among 200 light, music, ideas and food events was a dining experience with theatrics, technology, lighting, storytelling and music; 50 installations glowing after sunset with one view from the top of the Harbour Bridge to see them come on; and a light and aqueous choreography display that was the largest in Australia.

Gill Minervini’s own wow moments in 2022 was the largest drone show in the southern hemisphere with 600 drones in an eight minute show (“it filled up the sky, truly spectacular”) and an installation in Sydney’s oldest above-ground tunnel from the 1850s and not used since the ‘80s (“a massive experience”).

Gill Minervini, Vivid Director

She made sure she joined the crowds as much as she could because she knew that would help shape the next round of ideas.

“The more I put myself in their shoes and how they experience it, the clearer it is and the better it makes me at my work,” she explains.

“There’s nothing like being part of an audience’s energy, you can’t beat it.

“In our industry we haven’t really had that for years, and it was quite intoxicating.”

The theme for Vivid Sydney 2023 is nature – how it creates inspiration, evokes awe and hope, and is filled with that beauty and mystery that poets and scientists have been trying to articulate for centuries.

Calls for expressions of interest have been sent out, with the Vivid team of project managers, creative technologists, designers and engineers already beginning work.

“It’s looking at our connection with the natural environment, looking at authenticity, looking at connection,” she expands, “It’s an interesting theme to explore.

“My view is not to necessarily make things bigger. They just have to be different, and as good as, if not better, than what the audience has experienced.”

Collaborators and partnerships are made with businesses of all sizes, depending on scale and what needs to be purpose-built and specific.

The success of her 30+ year career has been the way she heavily involved the local community, either in the creative process or as an “army of advocates” to stress to others how the event was very much their own. 

“It was very important to me in the first year that I directed Vivid to include and involve the Sydney community because there hadn’t been a Vivid since 2019, and I thought it important to reconnect with the place and the people where it’s held.”

Minervini is one of the speakers at the Australian Festival Industry Conference, imparting on “Igniting your festival’s creative program” on Wednesday August 31 from 12.20 to 12.45 pm.

She will draw from being the first professional festival director for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in the late ‘80s, putting together Dark Mofo’s Winter Feast, and creative director/ producer for City of Sydney Events where initiatives as the massive Lunar New Year Festival, Art & About Sydney and Sydney’s Christmas Celebrations, attracting a combined annual audience of two million.

She will also tap on the festival and event direction, and creative and strategic advice, that her company Gill Minervini Creative provided for clients as Adelaide Festival, Museum of Old & New Art (MONA), Barangaroo Delivery Authority, Rugby League World Cup, Transport for NSW, City of Melbourne, Arts NSW, Tourism WA, and Events and Tourism Tasmania.

When she arrived at Vivid, she says, she was lucky to inherit a skilled and creative crew, citing project manager Brad Gander and technical manager Tony Fahy as not only helping to realise the vision but seeking cost-effective options if the budget blew out.

Vivid’s production costs are confidential, but she says the economic benefits outweigh them.

In 2019,Vivid poured $170 million into the NSW economy.

This year, “We had 2.58 million people, 80% capacity in restaurants, and 700,000 people buying a meal at the event. 

“So really the budget is minuscule compared to the benefits.”

Gill Minervini is a speaker at this year’s Australian Festival Industry Conference (31 August – 1 September). Tickets are on sale now. For more information, click here

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