Poor weather impacts crowd numbers down at Ballarat's White Night

White Night's artistic director David Atkins. Picture: Adam Trafford
White Night's artistic director David Atkins. Picture: Adam Trafford

City streets were swarming with excited kids and art seekers on Saturday night, as the White Night festival took over CBD streets and buildings for the third year.

While drizzle early in the night created a sea of umbrellas on Lydiard Street, the organisers behind the seven-hour festival said 40,000 still turned up to the artistic event.

But it is still unknown whether the projection festival will ever return to Ballarat.

Artistic director David Atkins admitted the "inclement weather had an impact of crowd numbers", and said if they had gotten Friday's weather of a top of 21 degrees, it could have been a different story.

"People were not letting the weather affect them. The figures were certainly less, but consistent with the first year here. It just the risk you take when you stage an outdoor event," he said.

"Ballarat has this extraordinary architectural landscape perfect for projection, and there's always huge take up from the arts community here.

"Regional audiences here are in a great frame of mind, and are open and accepting. There's a sense of community created around White Night in Ballarat."

More than 60,000 people were present for Ballarat's 2018 edition of White Night.

Large crowds also gathered at Alfred Deakin Place for single rope walking performance Kilter, while massive roaming puppets The Messenger and The Guardian were also favourites.

Listen to our interview with the creators of The Guardian and The Messenger below.

Jo Blanck, the creator of A Blank Canvas behind The Messenger and The Guardian said White Night Ballarat broke down barriers to art by bringing it to the people on the street.

"The Guardian has been a really amazing thing because we designed it to walk and interact with people, but the static shows have been amazing because it is not often we get to invite people to be up close and touch it and feel it," he said.

Puppeteer for The Guardian Anna Thomson said art was accessible to the public at White Night.

"Sometimes black box theatre or going in to an exhibition can be confronting if it is not something people regularly do," she said.

"It means they might later want to engage with something else in art. I think it opens up art and makes less boundaries and less confronting."

The Heliosphere and the Messenger meet outside Craig's Royal Hotel. Picture: Craig Holloway

The Heliosphere and the Messenger meet outside Craig's Royal Hotel. Picture: Craig Holloway

Atkins' contract as artistic director for the festival finishes this year, but the event will be staged in Bendigo next year and in Geelong in 2021. It is not yet know if it will ever return to Ballarat.

He said he couldn't speak for the state government on whether Ballarat will see White Night on its streets again, but the "undertaking in the regions" had proved successful.

"Ballarat has been lucky enough to have a White Night every year since the regional program's inception. (Whether it returns) is a question really for the government, in regards to their agenda and how they're managing it," he said.

When asked if it was the last White Night for the city, a government spokesperson said "we'll have more to say on future White Night scheduling in due course".

City of Ballarat stated online that "the shift away from autumn, which is a busy period for major events in Ballarat, is an exciting opportunity".

"White Night Ballarat 2019, which is organised by the state government, moved to spring to align with the shift of the Melbourne event to August," a spokesperson for the council said on Facebook.

This story Future of White Night uncertain for Ballarat as weather cuts crowds first appeared on The Courier.