Fire Water – Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

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Project: Fire Water
Organisation: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
Place: The Rocks
Year: 2009, 2010
Project Type: Culture-led Placemaking, Curating and Programming, Night-time Economy

In 2009 and 2010 Michael Cohen, now director of City People, directed and produced two water spectacles for Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) as part of Vivid Sydney.  These events took place over the Queen’s Birthday long weekends and attracted crowds of 90,000 and 120,000 respectively.  The projects met two core objectives:

  • To create a night-time economy project to assist local retail and food/beverage tenants in the low-season winter period
  • To recount historical stories of The Rocks precinct in innovative and contemporary ways that are engaging and provocative for local audiences.

Fire Water was a great success.  Attendances far exceeded expectations and it became a must-see event on the Vivid Sydney programme.

…Sydney had its own midwinter night’s dream, with paper lanterns flitting across the water like fireflies and the ghosts of convicts past slipping through the crowd… Sydney Morning Herald

Changing Places with Arts and Culture

In the early 2000s, over 50% of visitors to The Rocks were tourists.  After several years of innovative, culture-led initiatives that delivered powerful new place associations for visitors, the demographics started to change.  Fuelled by the belief that if a place works for the locals then it will be attractive to everyone, SHFA produced innovative programmes like Fire Water, The Rocks Windmill and The Village Bizarre.  After just a few years of this work, over 75% of visitors to the precinct were locals and the place’s identity fully embraced the newly developed brand pillars of ‘intimate, curious and savouring’.

Check out these videos below to get a sense of what Fire Water was all about.

Winner of Interpretation Australia Gold Award 2014

2009 Season

2010 Season

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