For the fourth year in a row Melbourne has hosted White Night, a now annual event that is also held in 13 other locations around the world including Paris, London, Tel Aviv, Chicago and Montreal to name a few. White Night Melbourne it is held around the end of February for one Saturday night from 7pm until 7am.
It’s a popular attraction in Melbourne and in the past has attracted crowds of around half a million people in the city centre. We went in 2014 and a number of the attractions were around Flinders St Station, St Paul’s Cathedral and Federation Square. This caused terrible congestion and a bottle neck right outside Flinders St Station and people were unable to move. The crowd was so heavy we had to turn around and head back up Flinders Lane and walk around that way for better views. I don’t normally get too distressed in crowds but this particular night people were pushing and people with prams just mowing people down, it really was an uncomfortable experience and the kids were stressed and getting pushed and pulled in every direction. I was determined for that not to happen again.
White Night Melbourne 2016
This year we decided to go in early. We got off at Flinders St Station and headed over to Birrarung Mar, on the north bank of the Yarra River. I had read in the paper that there was going to be family friendly activities located for the kids to enjoy. We found some food trucks and a latin american band playing some tunes that the kids had a little dance to. We stopped for something to eat at the food trucks and then walked on to the Swan Street Bridge and over to the southern bank of the Yarra near Alexander Gardens. We arrived just on dusk and the Melbourne Water laser display was just starting up. The kids enjoyed the laser and sound show, there were quite a few people sitting and watching the show.
We then walked along the Yarra back towards Flinders Street and stopped at the skate park. The kids were happy to watch that for a while and Caelan wanted to stay all night. It was decked out in neon lighting and there would have been at least 20 or so kids on the skate ramps. Over behind this area there appeared to be a lot more food trucks and a bit of a common area.
By this time the crowds were starting to build. We headed back to Flinders Street Station, Craig had taken the program out of the newspaper that day but we were unable to find it (he left it in the garage!) and we were unable to find any of the volunteers with maps. Once again everyone seemed to be gathered outside of Flinders Street Station and St Paul’s Cathedral. we were unable to move any further up Swanston Street. While we were standing there some of the volunteers announced that nothing would be happening at Flinders Street Station and to start moving off. We decided to head up Flinders Street past Federation Square. Fed Square was illuminated and it looked fabulous, full of bright colour and changing regularly.
We then walked up Russell Street following the crowd and we decided to head back towards Swanston Street through Flinders Lane. We thought there would be something happening at Hosier Lane, there was, although it was in a lane of Hosier Lane and the queue was over 100m long which was too long for the kids to wait. We then headed through the Westin up to Collins St, last year there was a bit going on through there but this year there was very little, one wall had some animals projected on to it.
We then joined the craziness of Swanston St again and battled the crowd coming down when we were the minority going up towards Bourke St. Between Collins and Bourke there was one wall illuminated and if I hadn’t seen other people taking photos I wouldn’t have seen it as we were walking the against the crowd. We were still at this stage jam packed walking up the street, people are pushing and shoving and the kids are getting upset and tired as its after 9pm now. All the way along people are stopped at the buskers on the side of the street therefore pushing the crowd to funnel into the middle of the road to get around them. At this stage the kids are crying they want to go home!
At the intersection of Bourke and Swanson there were protesters in the middle of the road in a fenced area protesting for the refugees. This was certainly not the time or place for a protest, the crowds were ridiculous and it added to the congestion, I found I was annoyed at them rather than showing any compassion for their cause.
We were determined to get to the State Library as we were certain something would be happening there. We were right but there were so many people there I was only able to view it from the tram tracks in the middle of the road. I couldn’t believe how many people were gathered in front. The RMIT building was also illuminated but due to the road block we were unable to get to it without walking a considerable distance and the kids were done! This had bought us to Melbourne Central Station and it was nearly 10.30pm, we decided to throw in the towel and head home. I was particularly disappointed and wanted to keep going but grumpy kids makes for a grumpy mum!
I knew that the Exhibition Buildings would have been amazing but it was too far to walk and there were no trams to catch so I couldn’t expect the kids to walk all that way. I had completely missed the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and was very disappointed as we were very close to this area at the very beginning and I think the kids would have liked that. I saw some amazing photos on Facebook the next morning.
Firstly, next year I will pack the map and probably leave later having worked out a plan and not end up following the crowd. Alannah had been on a sleep over the night before and we had been out all day so in hindsight I probably should have left the kids at home. Next year we will have to seriously consider leaving the kids at home or possibly get up really early in the morning and go in then. At least the crowd will have dispersed a little bit and you wouldn’t see the congestion like you do earlier in the night.
My recommendation to the organisers
If they could consider a marked trail which could guide people in one direction and to follow a specific route that makes sense. Obviously not everyone will follow it but a large majority of people will. Have the path advertised in the newspaper and in all media coverage. Condense it to a smaller area, you would be hard pressed expecting any kid under 12 years old to walk the distances that were required to be covered this year. Its supposed to be a family friendly event.
Most of all, I think they need to consider doing this over a few nights, even a long weekend from Friday – Sunday night. This will mean that the crowds would be spread over these nights and you wouldn’t have the congestion seen this and previous years. Many people with families that I spoke to were also disappointed and agreed that this year it was too spread out and the distances too far. Sydney Vivid is a similar event and it goes for a period of 2 weeks. I think its a bit silly to try and do it all in one night. Just my 2 bobs worth!
Having said all that, will I return? Yes for sure. I love what they’re doing for Melbourne and I love the concept. Its great that its held in many other cities around the world and to have Melbourne up there is great. We do live in the ‘worlds most liveable city’ and we do major events fantastically, we just need to streamline this a little better and make it flow more naturally.
So what did I miss out on?
I friend of mine kindly shared some photos with me to show what we missed out on and as you can see despite our failed attempt it really is worth going too. We will definitely be returning next year so I advise you give it a chance too. As you can see she is also a better photographer than me! Thanks Lanz.
So there you go, its definitely worth a visit so when it comes around again next year make sure you take the time to go into town and check it out! This time we will be leaving a little bit later! Next time I think I might stay in the city, we recently stayed at the Holiday Inn Melbourne and it was affordable and in a great location.
Next weekend we are off to Port Fairy, down the Great Ocean Road. So watch out for next weeks post.
Sal and Co.