Arts & Entertainment

The Best FREE Events at Sydney Festival 2017

The Big Hair Show. Photo: Prudence Upton

When you’re living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, heading out and about purely for fun’s sake can be a bit tricky. We all know the endless hunt for ‘fun’ has also been impended by the ripple effect of the lockout laws. But while the Sydney bourgeoisie don’t seem too keen to help revive the age old tradition of kicking on in King’s Cross until the wee hours, there is one cultural area they are adamant in fighting for: proving that we’re every bit as ‘artsy’ and ‘cultural’ as bloody Melbourne! The impressive line-up for the 2017 Sydney Festival is proof.

City Hub has saved you the trouble of scouring the program and presents to you the best free events to take advantage of…

The Beach
Imagery of this monochromatic installation from New York’s Snarkitecture has been popping up all over social media like a contagious rash in the short time it’s been open. And that might be because, well, it’s pretty awesome! Live out your childhood fantasies by diving into a sea of 1.1 million (recyclable) polystyrene balls. You can (quite literally) immerse yourself in the art for free. Or if you’d rather splash about with child-like abandon without actually running into any real life children, then the ticketed 18+ evening sessions might be your thing. All ages ticketed sessions are also available in the mornings for early risers.

Until Jan 29, 10am-5pm (last admission at 3.30pm), closed Mondays. The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve, Hickson Road Entrance, Barangaroo. FREE.
18+ Only Ticketed Sessions: Friday + Saturday nights until Jan 28, 6.30-8pm/8.30-10pm. $15.
All Ages Ticketed Sessions: Everyday (excluding Mondays) until Jan 29, 9-10am. $15.

The Hair Salon
Aside from the kitschy charm, the best thing about The Hair Salon is that it’s really three events in one. It’s your one stop shop for wild performances and free entertainment over the Festival! The Perm Set kick things off every night with an impressive live music line-up of disco, soul, funk and Latin bands. Next, Spanish hair sculptors Osadia pick a lucky few from the crowd to surrender their scalps to become elevated hair art live on stage. Then the ever-joyous Bob Downe (aka Mark Trevorrow) hosts the main event: The Big Hair Show (8.30pm), a variety show packed with cabaret, acrobatics, dance, music and more outrageous wigs than you can poke a bobby pin at. Think Hairspray meets Kath & Kim at a tremendously kitschy salon. If you’re in luck, a special guest star like Paul Capsis, Brendan Maclean or Catherine Alcorn might even pop in for a restyle and a song.

Until Jan 29, every night from about 6.30pm (excluding Mondays, see website for program). Meriton Festival Village, Hyde Park north, entry near Archibald Fountain. FREE.

Opera in the Domain
This is highbrow entertainment that may tug at your heartstrings, but definitely not at your purse strings. Bask under the stars in the grace of some of the world’s most famous arias as performed by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and a talented array of soloist performers. Christopher Lawrence and Rob Mills host this beautiful evening featuring the powerful voices of Elvira Fatykhova, Sian Pendry, Ho-Yoon Chung and Luke Gabbedy. Bars and stalls will be on hand for purchasing food and drinks, but packing a picnic is the way to go for cash conscious connoisseurs.

Jan 21, 8pm. The Domain, Art Gallery Road, Royal Botanic Gardens. FREE.

Scent of Sydney
Can you really know a city by the way it smells? Go beyond first impressions and embark on a sensory journey led by your nose at this world premiere art installation. Artist Cat Jones seeks to distil the real substance of Sydney – stories of landscape, democracy, resistance, competition, and extravagance. You are also invited to help shape this new portrait of Sydney with a program of conversations and debates based around the themes Jones explores in her work and featuring savvy guest speakers (see website for full details).

Until Jan 29, 10am-6pm. Carriageworks, Bay 19, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh. FREE.

Imagined Touch Installation

This participatory installation permits you to enter the profound experience of living in a world without sight or sound, as told by two Deafblind women: Heather Lawson, a performer, and Michelle Stevens, a pianist. Wearing goggles and headphones, audiences will experience the artists’ stories through intensified touch and tactile communication. Each 40-minute session (there are 11 per day) has a limited capacity, it is best to book ahead.

Until Jan 15, sessions from 9.50am–3.20pm. Carriageworks, Track 8, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh. FREE.

Circus For Everyone
Workshops where you’re required to sign a waiver before you begin are always the most exciting! Keen to share the delights of circus crafts, the folks from Aerialize are presenting more than 20 free workshops covering everything from trapeze to juggling. These workshops cater to everyone from toddlers to seniors, with special workshops catered to kids with special needs. Spaces are limited, so make sure you head over to the Sydney Festival website to check sessions and book your place.

Until Jan 22, various sessions + times. Riverside Theatres Courtyard, cnr Church and Market Streets, Parramatta. FREE.

The Sydney Festival runs until January 29. For the full program go to

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