Sydney New Year's Eve
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|Sydney New Year's Eve|
Opening sequence of the 2006/07 Midnight Fireworks.
|Genre||New Year's Eve event|
|Begins||8:30 pm (AEDT)|
|Ends||12:30 am (AEDT)|
|Budget||$6.5 million (as of 2019-20)|
Sydney New Year's Eve is an annual multi-tiered event held every New Year's Eve in Sydney, Australia. Centring on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and surrounding Port Jackson, its main events are two pyrotechnic displays: the 9pm Family Fireworks and the Midnight Fireworks, both of which are televised nationally with the more popular Midnight Fireworks televised globally.
Synchronised to a soundtrack of popular music from past and present, the fireworks explode off the arches, catwalk and roadway of the Harbour Bridge, including the Opera House, nearby city buildings and up to eight barges evenly divided on both sides of the bridge. Each year a new theme is chosen and is regularly viewed by more than one million people surrounding the harbour and one billion worldwide for the Midnight Fireworks. For the 2010/11 event, an audience of 1.5 million watched the display from the local harbour and a reported 1.1 billion globally.
The event was first televised on 31 December 1995. The 9pm Family Fireworks were originally the main show lasting around twenty minutes, with the Midnight Fireworks only lasting around three and featuring only the Sydney Tower. From 1999 onwards the Midnight Fireworks became the main event of the two. The 1998 Midnight Fireworks had a length of ten minutes and were increased to twenty five the following year. In NYE 2000 the fireworks went for fifteen minutes. From NYE 2005 to present the Midnight Fireworks have run for twelve minutes in reference to the twelve months of the year. There are many vantage points to see the fireworks in Sydney namely Barangaroo, Royal Botanic Gardens, Opera House, Bradley's Head, Sydney New Year's Eve Cruises, The Rocks, Taronga Zoo, Shark Island etc.
The City of Sydney Council is the official presenter of the event.
In 1976, the Sydney Committee decided to reconstitute a failing Waratah Festival as the Festival of Sydney. At the first meeting of its Programme Committee, they agreed that New Year's Eve should launch the new festival, a 'big bang affair'. Focusing on the harbour and adjacent areas, it would include a sail-past of decorated craft, music, and a 'spectacular fireworks display at midnight'. With this, the Festival of Sydney made New Year's Eve official for the first time. Stephen Hall was its Executive Director from 1977 to 1994. The 1979/80 brochure for the Festival featured an image of the fireworks over the Sydney Opera House and the slogan "Get into the 80's with a bang"
Syd Howard, pyrotechnician, used his inspiration and the chances given to him to put fireworks displays on Sydney Harbour to use the bridge as a launchpad for fireworks. His first opportunity was in 1986 for the 75th Anniversary Review of the Royal Australian Navy. Here he introduced the "waterfall" effect as well as a pyrotechnic message on the bridge. The message read "NSW salutes Royal Australian Navy" and employed thousands of cigarette-style fireworks to create the lettering. It hung over the side of the pedestrian walkway.
From NYE 1996 to NYE 1999, management of the event was contracted out to Ric Birch's Spectak Productions. Birch, known for his work on numerous Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies brought with him former Jimmy and the Boys front man Ignatius Jones as Creative Director and Catriona Brown as Senior Producer.
The original Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks display (NYE 1996) was designed by Syd Howard Fireworks. The event used the pylons, arch and catwalk of the bridge, city buildings and one barge located in front of the Sydney Opera House. There was a ten-second pyrotechnic countdown. Each second, one shooting comet shot off a different building starting from North Sydney and finishing at AMP Tower to form an Olympic Torch to welcome in 1997.
For NYE 1997, the Midnight Fireworks included the Star City Casino. The AMP Tower turned into a ticking clock with shooting comets slowly rotating around the top of the tower. The soundtrack for the countdown was a ticking clock before a bell toll rang in 1999. This bell toll also turned AMP Tower into an Olympic Torch. Also, from NYE 1997, the Midnight Fireworks were extended to include the Harbour Bridge, the 9 pm Family Fireworks were extended to include two barges (one on each side of the bridge) and the displays were co-designed by Foti International Fireworks and Syd Howard Fireworks.
On NYE 1999 the Apollo 11 countdown, as well as air raid sirens provided the soundtrack for the countdown. A smiley face was visible on the bridge during the show, until the finale revealed the word "Eternity" in Copperplate writing, in honour of Arthur Stace. Fireworks were also launched from the Centrepoint Tower. A rather unusual feature of the 1999 display was a selection of tugboats that made their way through the harbour, each one carrying a colourful, brightly lit model of a particular sea creature. The Fireworks Soundtrack included a 5-minute "History Of Pop" featuring hits from the 1890s to the 1990s.
Since NYE 2000, the displays have been fully designed and created by Foti International Fireworks. During NYE 2000, a larger than life birthday cake was unveiled well before midnight to celebrate 100 years of Australia as a nation. It was placed in front of the northern forecourt of the Opera House on a pontoon. At midnight, the cake lit up with a chasing lighting effect running from the bottom of the cake to the top. A Federation Star representing 100 years since the federation of Australia appeared on the bridge during the finale.
On NYE 2001, A dove of peace slowly came into view to speak peace to the world after the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York. On NYE 2002, the city buildings were removed from the fireworks displays. The 9 pm family fireworks had to be cancelled due to high winds of 90 km/h (56 mph). Those fireworks were then rescheduled to Australia Day, but were cancelled again, this time due to a total fire ban. An animated dove appeared on the bridge during the finale.
After six years as creative director, Ignatius Jones stepped down in 2002 to be replaced by former Melbourne and Sydney Festival artistic director Leo Schofield. Ken Wilby moved on the following year with the event's production manager Ed Wilkinson elevated to the producer role from 2003 to 2005.
On NYE 2003, a fifteen-second countdown was accompanied with the striking of a gong at midnight. For the first time, fireworks were launched off the vertical hangers of the bridge in a one-off display. From NYE 2004, the first 3D bridge effect was used. Also in that year, the fireworks display was viewed as a disco with pop music and a disco ball suspended from the bridge.
On NYE 2005, a beating heart was the icon on the bridge that appeared after the 9 pm fireworks display. The fireworks themselves during the show exploded in Heart shapes. Former Sydney Theatre Company head Wayne Harrison joined Katrina Marton in taking over leadership of the event as Creative Director and Producer respectively for the events from 2005 to 2007.
NYE 2006 saw the four barges feature for the 9pm Family Fireworks while six barges feature with the city buildings return in the Midnight Fireworks and in addition, it had a ten-second countdown projected on the pylons starting with the logo for Network Ten. A question mark was shown in the nights leading up to the celebrations, which also doubled up as the curved end of the coat hanger.
In NYE 2007, the bridge acted as a seventh barge for the first time shooting fireworks throughout the show instead of just during the beginning and finale.
In NYE 2008, the bridge, seven city buildings and six barges staged in the biggest fireworks display yet, increasing from $4 million worth of fireworks to $5 million. Brenton Kewley, who had worked on the event since 1996 in various roles, including Art Director and Associate Producer took over as Producer for the 2008 and 2009 events while journalist and broadcaster Rhoda Roberts took over from Wayne Harrison in 2008.
During NYE 2009, the countdown started with messages projected on the pylons. The pyrotechnic countdown was started by launching an exploding mine on a barge in front of the bridge. For the first time, microchip fireworks were used in the show which lasted longer in the sky and were more accurate when synchronised with music. The show consisted of $5 million worth of fireworks running for twelve minutes. A Yin Yang symbol appeared on the bridge during the finale. Once again, more fireworks exploded on the bridge throughout the entire show when compared with previous NYE displays.
In NYE 2010, the creative direction was still Rhoda Roberts. The theme was "Make Your Mark", reflecting on the decade gone and the lasting impressions left by our actions; as well as reflecting on ways in which all people can make their mark by contributing to a better future. For the very first time the bridge effect was multi-layered, which included more than ten signs and symbols.
In NYE 2011, the creative director was handed over to Marc Newson and Imagination Australia, taking over from Rhoda Roberts. The theme was Time to Dream. The display, for the very first time, was choreographed to an all-Australian soundtrack created by music production house s:amplify which included original composition. This marks the first year, a 90-second countdown was featured on the bridge effect.
On NYE 2012, the logo featured a swirl of coloured sails in magenta, yellow, purple and red, and marked with Kylie Minogue's signature "K". The show included new effects such as bees, koalas and octopus shells. A ten-second countdown accompanied by comets launched from jet skis before midnight. The show's budget has increased from $6.3 million to $6.6 million. Kylie Minogue was appointed as creative ambassador for the 2012 celebrations. Kylie worked alongside samplify to create the soundtrack including an exclusive remix created for the finale. The theme was Embrace
On NYE 2013, fireworks launched from the Opera House celebrating its 40th anniversary in the midnight fireworks and once again, city buildings were removed from the 9 pm and midnight fireworks. The bridge effect was also twice as big than previous years and used new LED technology. Reg Mombassa was creative ambassador for 2013/14. This marks the second year a numerical countdown was featured on the bridge effect. The theme was Shine.
The budget for Sydney New Year's Eve 2014 was reported to have increased from $6.8 million to $7.2 million. Throughout the night, "inspiring" messages from Twitter users via the hashtag "#SydNYE" were projected onto the pylons of the bridge. More extended sequences were featured on the Harbour Bridge and a pontoon barge in front. The Sydney Opera House was again used as a launching platform for the third time since the millennium. Australian actor Jack Thompson was the creative ambassador for 2014/15. The theme was Inspire.
2015 and beyond
The theme for the Sydney New Year's Eve 2015 celebrations was unveiled as 'City of Colour'. The usual emblem or symbol on the bridge supporting the fireworks theme would now be absent, however light displays illuminating the whole bridge would be used for future New Year shows. The Sydney Opera House was again used as a launching platform for the fourth time since the millennium. It is reported that an additional 2,400 fireworks were launched off the harbour bridge itself, and featured new flora-and fauna-inspired effects as tribute to the 200th anniversary of Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden & 100 years of Taronga Zoo. The hangers of the Sydney Harbour Bridge were re-introduced for a second time since NYE2003. Sequential moments on the harbour bridge itself occurred almost non-stop throughout the entire show, utilising the whole bridge.
The theme confirmed for Sydney New Year's Eve 2016 was 'Welcome to SydNYE'. For the first time, the ABC broadcast of the event was live-streamed through Facebook, YouTube, and the official SydNYE website. The display proved to be the biggest and complex yet, featuring more sequences on the hangers of the harbour bridge, and the city's name ("SYDNEY") being ignited from the bridge's upper arch, as the clock struck midnight. Both the 9:00 pm and Midnight shows also paid tribute to deceased artists Prince, David Bowie and Gene Wilder, which included never-before-seen effects such as; violet droplets, stars, quarter moons, Saturn-shaped shells, and candy-coloured fireworks. The bridge effect was a multi-coloured light show, choreographed to music.
The theme for Sydney New Year's Eve 2017 was the catchphrase 'Wonder'. As a nod to Australia's legalisation of same-sex marriage and tribute to the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Mardi Gras, a rainbow waterfall cascaded from the harbour bridge during the midnight display. The show set the record for Sydney's biggest display yet, featuring 8 tonnes of pyrotechnics (1 tonne more than the previous years), 13,000 aerial shells & 30,000 shooting comets (1000 and 5000 more than in 2016, respectively), and a numerical pyrotechnic countdown on the harbour bridge. For the very first time, six pontoon barges were re-introduced with all three displays, with the pontoons being configured horizontally across the Opera House Northern Forecourt for the Midnight show, and a segment co-designed by Hugh Jackman set to the tune of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu's song; 'Wiyathul'. The artwork from the event's creative artist; Nadia Hernández, served as inspiration for the lighting effects on the harbour bridge featuring new pastel shades, bright orange, pink, lime green, and light blue. The Welcome to the Country ceremony included a tribute marking the 50th anniversary of the Sydney-San Francisco sister city relationship, with a message from the Muwekma Ohlone peoples of the San Francisco Bay area projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons at the close of the ceremony. The bridge effect incorporated 3000 individual lighting effects designed by lighting director; Ziggy Ziegler.
The theme for Sydney New Year's Eve 2018 was "the Pulse of Sydney". The quantity of pyrotechnics exceeded that of last year's, featuring 8.5 tonnes of pyrotechnics (around 500 kilograms more than 2017), and 35,000 shooting comets (5000 more than 2017), making it the biggest show ever staged in Sydney. For the very first time, new wave effects were introduced where the colour moves across the display rather than the traditional burst from the centre of the firework, along with various strobing fireworks in keeping with the year's theme. During the midnight show, gold and silver cascades were featured in a tribute to deceased artist; Aretha Franklin. The Luna Park Ferris Wheel and Harbour of Light vessels were lit in red for the indigenous Calling Country ceremony at 9.08 pm, as well as being synchronised with the Harbour Bridge during the midnight show, featuring various colours. This was Imagination Australia's final year of involvement with the event.
For the first time since 1995, no theme is confirmed for the Sydney New Years Eve 2019-20 celebrations, instead, the City of Sydney council have chosen a 3 year "visual-identity" featuring artwork by Garbett Design.
Central to the firework displays each year since 1999 is the lighting display on the Harbour Bridge known as the "bridge effect". Made of rope light attached to a panel and truss system, the display showcases a variety of symbols and other images related to the current year's theme.
In recent times, the bridge has included a rope light display on a framework in the centre of the eastern arch, which is used to complement the fireworks. As the scaffolding and framework are clearly visible for some weeks before the event, revealing the outline of the design, there is much speculation as to how the effect is to be realised. The bridge effect has been designed by Brian Thomson since 2006, with the lighting designed by Mark Hammer since 2008. Since 2015, the current lighting designer is Ziggy Ziegler.
|1996–97||"Masquerade"||Sydney AMP Tower was the focal point for the midnight fireworks|
|1999–2000||"Sydney's Millennium"||"Eternity" in copperplate writing and a smiley face|
|2000–01||"100 Years as a Nation, Millions of Years as a Land"||Rainbow Serpent and a Federation Star|
|2001–02||"Of Beauty Rich and Rare: Australia – The Land"||Uluru, and the Southern Cross (supporting effect: Dove of Peace)|
|2002–03||"The World’s Celebration in Union"||Dove of Peace and the word "PEACE"|
|2003–04||"City of Light"||Light show on the Sydney Harbour Bridge|
|2004–05||"Reflections on Australiana"||Fanfare|
|2005–06||"Heart of the Harbour"||Three concentric hearts|
|2006–07||"A Diamond Night in Emerald City"||Coathanger and a diamond (supporting effect: question mark)|
|2007–08||"The Time of Our Lives"||Mandala and an hourglass|
|2008–09||"Creation"||Sun (supporting effect: eight-pointed star)|
|2009–10||"Awaken the Spirit"||Yin and yang symbol, blue moon and a ring of fire|
|2010–11||"Make Your Mark"||X mark, Target and hand print (supporting effects: smiling face, an asterisk, exclamation mark, the peace symbol, analogue clock, a pointer and an archer)|
|2011–12||"Time to Dream"||Thought bubble and Endless rainbow (supporting effect: Sun)|
|2012–13||"Embrace"||Butterfly and lip|
|2013–14||"Shine"||Eye (supporting effect: a UFO and a blue star)|
|2014–15||"Inspire"||Light bulb (with love heart inside it) (supporting effect: seahorses)|
|2015–16||"City of Colour"||Light show on Sydney Harbour Bridge|
|2016–17||"Welcome to SydNYE"|
|2018–19||"Pulse of Sydney"|
A continual stream of fireworks falling from the base of the bridge down to actually touch the water. The waterfall comprises approximately 1100 candle fireworks. Each year, it has been a traditional golden waterfall.
Some years the waterfall effect has been changed such as on NYE 2000 when the waterfall changed colours from gold to silver. NYE 2000 was also unique in that fireworks were also fired for the first time from the gantry of the bridge.
NYE 2002 had a "strobing angelic" waterfall effect where 144 Roman candles released mines and stars that "twinkled". This effect was repeated on NYE 2005 where it changed colour from red to white and also on NYE 2006 where it was coloured only green.
NYE 2004 had the traditional golden waterfall effect except that it slowed crossed the bridge from south to north. This was a difficult set up due to the arch's access but a first of its kind on the bridge with a spectacular "torrent style" waterfall effect.
NYE 2009 saw a "lollipop" waterfall effect shoot off the catwalk of the bridge during the 9 pm Family Fireworks. This was followed on NYE 2010 where a red and white checkerboard waterfall effect shot off the catwalk of the bridge during the 9 pm Family Fireworks. NYE 2011 saw a colourful waterfall effect shot off during the 9 pm Family Fireworks. NYE 2014 saw a red and white waterfall effect shot off during the 9pm Family Fireworks. NYE 2015 saw a colourful waterfall effect shot off during the 9 pm Family Fireworks. NYE 2016 saw a purple waterfall effect shot off during the 9 pm Family Fireworks as a tribute to deceased artist Prince.
While on NYE 2017, a rainbow waterfall cascaded from the harbour bridge during the midnight show, celebrating the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia.
NYE2018 saw a red and white waterfall effect fired off from the Sydney Harbour Bridge during 9 pm Family Fireworks.
The years where the traditional golden waterfall effect has not been featured completely are; NYE 2000 (golden to silver), NYE 2002 (green & white strobing angelic), NYE 2005 (red to white strobing angelic), and NYE 2006 (green strobing angelic).
The golden waterfall was to be used again on NYE 2018, however, it failed to ignite as programmed.
"Birthday cake" effect
Originally fired for the Australia Day Bicenntenial Celebrations in 1988, the effect has been used to close the fireworks display with its loudness and brightness. The effect comprises 200 long-burning comets shooting out balls of fire 250 feet into the sky, with a silver star effect at the end fired off the top of the bridge, simulating a big birthday cake with 200 lit candles. This effect has closed every Sydney New Year's Eve between NYE 1996 and NYE 1998. It was used in the finale of the NYE 1999 celebrations. The effect has not been used in Sydney New Year's Eve since NYE 1999.
From 1996–2006, the rights to the television broadcast were held by the Nine Network with Richard Wilkins as a host for almost every year. From 2006–09, Network Ten was broadcaster after winning a three-year deal from Nine. In 2009, Nine regained the rights back from Ten until 2013. ABC, ABC HD and ABC Australia had the rights since 2013.
The City of Sydney put its Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks coverage to tender, following the conclusion of ABC's two-year contract. However, the ABC held broadcast rights since 2013 for the Sydney New Year's Eve coverage.
|1996/97||Nine Network||Richard Wilkins|
|2006/07||Network Ten||Gretel Killeen|
|2009/10||Nine Network||Leila McKinnon|
NYE 2004 soundtrack
The dance remix of Advance Australia Fair/Waltzing Matilda (by Hylton Mowday) was composed especially for the event. It caused a backlash among the public, most notably, the Prime Minister of Australia of the time, John Howard. He said, "the public will not be able to sing along. The anthem should only be played and sung to allow maximum audience participation. It is after all our national anthem and I don't think it should be played around with. It's become widely accepted and I think people should be encouraged to sing it with great gusto, but it's got to be played in a way that enables them to do so. Most of us are pretty inadequate singers at the best of times and trying to keep pace with that, I don't know about you but gee I couldn't".
The NSW Opposition Leader of the time, John Brogden was quoted to say "it is simply a bad piece of music. I think it actually strangles the national anthem, which is what I think is upsetting people the most. It's not like it's a slight change in the version that people are willing to entertain for a party. What it is on this occasion is a very bad piece of music and that's why I think the public anger has been so strong. I think people actually regard the treatment of the national anthem as disrespectful, cause it just doesn't work."
Network Ten coverage
On NYE 2006–07, Network Ten received many complaints regarding its first ever coverage of the event. The main issue was with a special episode of The Big Night In with John Foreman, shown between the two firework displays where Matthew Newton simulated oral sex with Foreman and pretended to play a piano with his penis.
Over the last few years, the ABC has received Twitter complaints regarding its coverage. For its first ceremony in 2013–14, viewers on the service commented on the networks coverage as a "train wreck" and made unsubstantiated claims the show's talent was intoxicated on-air. Those complaints also cited unusual flirtations between presenters, including co-presenter Stephanie Brantz warning Lawrence Mooney to return to a serious focus. The following year's 2014–15 coverage received less criticism, though the coverage was also criticized by Twitter complaints for the technical quality of the ceremony and surrounding coverage, including co-host Julia Zemiro being caught on a hot mic saying "oh, thank God" when the closing credits came on-screen. In 2015-16, the show's hashtag was used to complain about the ceremony (including calls for future years to return to Nine), though that year's pub quiz was praised, with viewers being complimentary of host Lawrence Mooney.
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