The distinctive architecture of Melbourne took on bizarre and beautiful hues Saturday night. It was the second annual “White Night,” Melbourne’s take on the concept that started in St. Petersburg, spread to Paris, then on to dozens of other cities. White night generally refers to the days in the upper latitudes which are are longest during the days around the summer solstice. In Melbourne, the night was every colour that the prism has to offer except white, splashed on to Victorian era buildings and bridges as well as trees and water and sky. It was a night when three hundred artists were busy with their technicolor paintbrushes and one eighth of the city came out to play.

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This city’s White Night event started last year and attracted millions, so this year they decided to spread out the venues. Yours truly was not up to the task of visiting all one hundred sites or even close, but you are welcome to read a good account of one reporter who made a valiant time to dance the night away. Check it out before it disappears. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/the-success-of-melbournes-white-night-festival-shines-light-on-serious-art-20140223-33aeb.html.

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After a long but orderly queue, I was fortunate enough to get into the rotunda of the State Library for a fascinating display of various viruses projected around the octagonal room with information on the status of the virus as a killer, past and present. Then it was down Swanston Street until the crush of bodies brought me to a complete halt. It was like being in an overpacked subway station. For what seemed like hours, but was probably no more than a few minutes, nobody could move. I finally got to a side street and peeled off to make my way down to Flinders Station, the heart of the City.

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Once I was on the South bank of the Yarra, the hordes eased up. It is estimated that around half a million people made it into the CBD (Central Business District) for the Lorikeet coloured evening. Astonishingly, there were only ten arrests. But the police were not much in evidence where I wandered, so that could account for it. Needless to say, transport was a problem. I came down by tram, which stopped well before its normal destination at Flinders Station. Trying to get home about 12:30, the trams were jammed. I managed to get on the second one and a young man to whom I will be forever grateful gave this old guy his seat.

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A new piece in today’s “Age” suggests that “White Night” may be a victim of its own success. During the morning peak hours most train lines run services every 10 minutes or more often, trams more frequently. After the New Year’s Eve fireworks trains run at least every 15 minutes out of the city, with half-hourly services later in the morning. On White Night, passengers were expected to cram onto mostly half-hourly train services and trams every 20 minutes before 1am and then half hourly until morning.

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Thanks to the alarming accounts of Saturday night bar brawls spreading into the streets, I have long been wary of going into the CBD on Saturday night without having a specific destination. But White Night itself was remarkably peaceful and almost orderly. It was also spectacular and fun. Still, after the wait for the tram and the long ride home, I was very grateful to be back in bed.

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