All the free Sydney Festival events on in January

It’s a new year and that means there’s a new set of breathtaking performances and moving art to be showcased at the annual Sydney Festival.

The decades-old cultural event draws artists from all around the world for a “citywide celebration” of creativity, bringing people from all over Australia to Sydney for an event that encompasses the entire month of January.

While some performances are ticketed, many of the most anticipated events are free of charge.

Here’s your guide to the best of Sydney Festival’s free events.


One thing you are likely to see popping up on your social media feeds time and time again are the unmissable Sea Gulls that will be roaming around various locations until January 14.

With warnings to hide your hot chippies, the Melbourne-based Snuff Puppets group are bringing the enormous handmade puppet spectacle to Darling Harbour (January 5-7), Circular Quay (January 12), The Thirsty Mile (January 13) and Bondi Beach (January 14).

The striking birds will be roaming around and interacting with crowds, stopping to do 30-minute performances at multiple points on each date.

If you are looking for fun things to entertain the kids these school holidays — that will also be enjoyable for parents — it may be time to visit the Hive Festival, which is holding events in the city and west.

The interactive event featuring hands-on workshops will be held first at the Art Gallery of NSW from January 13 to 14, where you can move onto the galleries other attractions after making your own art.

Architect and designer Noa Haim is inviting visitors to join in on an interactive cardboard sculpture called the Collective Paper Aesthetics.

For those further away from the CBD, the festival will also be stopping into the Blacktown Arts Centre from January 19 to 20 and bringing the art, music and performances with it.

First Nations elders and artists will showcase traditional stories and weaving techniques and visitors can join in with Western Sydney’s first disability-led collective in making wearable art.

You don’t have to be a local to join in on the fun, with Hive creating a self-guided audio journey for those who are travelling between St James Station to Blacktown to get people excited on their journey there.


Classical music is not known for being accessible to the everyday Australian, but things are about to change with a free starlit summer concert from Sydney Symphony Orchestra and added guests.

Not only will you get to hear traditional classics from the orchestra, led by guest conductor Benjamin Northey, but there will be added performances such as original music featuring the didgeridoo from William Barton and “transportive” sitar playing from Anoushka Shankar.

Those who are keen to watch the Sydney Symphony Under the Stars can do so on January 20 at The Crescent at Parramatta Park.

If classical music isn’t your thing, the fresh sounds of new artists will also be playing at the New Beginnings Festival.

Featuring performances from artists of First Nations, refugee and migrant backgrounds, the event entering its eighth year is one of Sydney Festival’s favourites.

Nine artists will bring their fresh sounds and experiences to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Pyrmont on January 27 free of charge.

These include the Reggae sounds of Sydney group The Strides, the rhythmical Brazilian style drumming of Ile Ilu and the “extraordinary musical force” of Filipino and Aboriginal musician DOBBY.


Two years after its buzz-worthy performance of A Bee Story, the talents of Queensland’s Arc Circus Co are returning to Sydney once again for an unmissable performance.

Dubbed as “living sculptures”, the circus talents have teamed up with the Yugambeh Aboriginal Dancers to tell a Dreamtime story through dizzying acrobatics and extreme performance.

How the Birds got their Colours will be held at the Botanic Gardens, Darling Harbour, Parramatta, Cronulla, Manly and Bondi from January 10 to 14.

You may have heard of Cirque du Soleil, but lucky Sydneysiders will be able to catch a world first performance of Cambodia’s best circus performers vying for a place in the famed group.

A free screening of documentary Cirque du Cambodia will be held at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre on January 16, showcasing the story of two youths who ran away to join the circus on their journey to take the stage at Cirque du Soleil.

Those keen on watching the film who can’t make it to Sydney’s south will be able to do so, with the documentary screening on Sydney Festival’s home collection until March 31.

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