An ‘Enlightening’ Review of the Canberra Enlighten Festival

Ordinarily, Canberra tends to be ignored, underestimated and overlooked when it comes to being considered one of Australia’s major cities, let alone its capital. When it comes to culture festivals especially, people think of Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and even Adelaide! But Canberra, well, probably not. However, from the 27th of February to the 7th of March, Canberra finally has a chance to show the nation that they can do fancy just as well as any of the other capital cities.

But have they pulled it off?

The tired concrete constructions of the Parliamentary Triangle, finally able to show their true colours in the lights of the Enlighten Festival created a feast for the eyes and a particular favourite, Old Parliament House, not only donned the best of Australia’s political cartoons on its outer façade, but also an evocative installation performance called ‘Trade Winds’ that seemed to float on the Reflection Pond complete with stunning costumes and lighting.

Not to be outdone, the National Gallery of Australia wore with pride projections of their feature exhibit James Turrell: A Retrospective, while also keeping their doors open to wanderers and passer-bys. The NGA’s display included their permanent new feature, Skyspace, courtesy of Turrell, which in itself is completely worth visiting.

For those with children or simply those who are young at heart, Questacon offered live kooky experiments and the most amazing fairy floss on flashing sticks you will ever see – or taste. There is plenty to see and do, with the luscious lawns of John Dunmore Lang Place also offering up their own evening’s worth of entertainment including live DJ’s, indie bands and a performance that combines aerial imagery and amazing human feats in ‘Element’. If even that fails to inspire, there are numerous art displays and fairy rides on Lake Burley Griffin. With their doors flung wide open and fully dressed to impress, the public buildings, museums and galleries offer an inspiring evening out with friends, an impressive night out with the family, a wonderful date or simply some quality alone time.

Finally, for all the foodies out there Enlighten provides a taste of the East with their brand spanking new Night Noodle Market. In theory, visitors will be delighted by colourful lanterns, sit, enjoy live music and be entertained by lucky lion dances while enjoying the smells and tastes of their favourite Asian cuisines. However, if you do wish to do this you need to get in early as the market crowds and lines become astronomical. Unfortunately the organisers provided to few stalls in a too tightly packed area making the markets difficult to enjoy. Despite the crowds and lines, the delicious food that the Noodle Markets provides still makes it worth a visit with meals ranging between $10 and $20. While there is an ATM, getting cash out before-hand is recommended and to optimise the variety of food gathered and minimise waiting time if attending with a group, allocate different members to different stalls, because while the lines are monstrous, the food is so delicious you will want to try simply everything.

Despite some room for improvement, it is fair to say that the event organisers of Enlighten do deserve a well-earned pat on the back – proving that Canberra can definitely hold their own when it comes to culture and hosting art festivals.  This festival is fantastic and is something that should certainly not be missed.


We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.