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    September Events in Sydney

    September events in Sydney

    By Maxim Boon Posted: On Timeline - Friday August 28 2020

     We're here to help your social life blossom in the first month of spring

     Throw off your doonas and discard your scarves: spring has sprung in Sydney. September not only heralds the arrival of warmer weather, but much like the trees and flowers waking up from the winter snooze, life is returning to the city's social scene, with more events, performances, exhibitions, markets, and spring flings on the cards, all with CovidSafe measures in place, of course.


    1. In Bloom Exhibition

    The Royal Botanic Gardens' light-filled glasshouse, the Calyx, is back in action again after a period of shutdown. Previously home to exhibitions like the carnivorously-minded Plants with Bite, the Calyx returns with a brand new floral display called In Bloom

    With more than 20,000 flowers in a dizzying array of colours, it's a spectacle to be seen. On one expansive wall is a living vertical flower arrangement, which stretches over 50 metres in length, and is more than five metres in height. 

    In Bloom is open to guests from 10am-4pm every day. As the flowers grow and change, the exhibition will develop too – so it's worth coming back for a second visit. In Bloom is open until winter of 2021, so you'll have plenty of chances to see the flowers unfold. 

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    2. Van Gogh Alive

    The triumph and the tragedy of Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh has captivated people worldwide, with his art speaking to audiences far beyond the normal gallery-hopping set. Now Sydneysiders can soak up the sweeping, soaring beauty of works like ‘Wheatfield with Crows’, ‘Vase with Twelve Sunflowers’ and ‘Starry Night over the Rhone’ at unimaginable scales.

    Blockbuster exhibition Van Gogh Alive has so far graced Rome, Berlin, Singapore and more. It finally touches down in Australia, just a little off course. Originally intended for Melbourne, their unfortunate lock lockdown loss is our gain. The vast space of the Royal Hall of Industries, next door to the Entertainment Quarter, will bring van Gogh's work alive in a way that’s never been seen before.  

    Housing screens and projections with a combined surface area of more than 30 IMAX screens, the paintings will ripple across them like light dappled on the surface of water. Devised as a multi-sensory experience, the incredible shimmering visuals will also be accompanied by fragrances designed to place you within the paintings. You can also get in the mood with this beautifully curated Spotify playlist of inspiring classical music.

    Making the magic of art come alive for all ages, the Van Gogh Alive experience uncovers new angles and amazes afresh. And you can also check out the painstaking process behind the masterpieces thanks to accompanying photograph and video exhibits.

    American outlet CNN got it bang on when they said, “Van Gogh Alive lets you peek into the heart of the painter and connect with him… both deeply and subtly.”  Tickets are on sale Friday 21 at noon, starting from $30. The exhibition opens September 18 and currently runs through October 12, so get in quick.

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     3. End of Biennale Party by P&V Merchants and Mary's

    Parties have been few and far between lately, but if anything deserves a proper send-off, it's the multi-arts event that is the Sydney Biennale.

    In honour of the Biennale's final weekend on Cockatoo Island, the legends at Mary's and the natural vino conoisseurs at Newtown's P&V Merchants are throwing a big bash at Cockatoo Island, where a selection of this year's works have been exhibited – in a socially distanced way, of course. You can still see works from the Biennale at other venues around the city, but Sunday, September 6 will be your last shot at seeing those exhibited on the island (and at the Rocks' MCA). 

    Catch the ferry across on Saturday, September 5 to feast on Mary's burgers and natural wine to the sound of ambient beats. The open-air wine bar will stock a curated selection of funky tipples from cutting-edge local winemakers, from pét-nats to chilled reds and oranges. If you're not into wine, pick from a range of ciders and wild fermented beers. The obvious accompaniment to outdoor bevvies on the harbour? Oysters, naturally. The P&V team will also bring along their best oyster shucker and buckets of the freshest bivalves from Wapengo Rocks on the South Coast. 

    Sip to the sound of DJ sets by by Dave Bowman and The Presets' Julian Hamilton. Hamilton will be taking the musical reins from 2-4pm, while Bowman will deliver a mix of funk, soul and R’n’B, as well as Japanese ambient micro music, brass street-style tunes from New Orleans and funk-tinged beats from the Middle East. Expect a musical vibe switch-up each hour. 

    The party runs from 11am-9pm, with ferries departing form Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island regularly throughout the day. It's free to enter, and you can't book – so it's first in, best dressed. The last ferry departs from Cockatoo Island at 11.19pm. 

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    4. Yum Cha Brunch

    A seat at Chin Chin is a highly sought after one at the best of times – so, in honour of Father's Day on Sunday, September 6, the modern Asian eatery is opening its doors a whole hour early for brunch. 

    Kicking off from 9am, you'll be able to start Dad's day off in the most delicious of ways. What better way to tell someone you love and appreciate them than plying them with yum cha? Try prawn spring rolls, chilli salt squid, scallop sui mai, sasi goreng, dumplings, and even Nutella buns for a sweet finish on the main menu ($55 per person). Still not satisfied? Tack on some extras like stir-fried egg noodles, a spanner crab omelette, and a banana roti. It's  enough that you can get away with gifting him (another) book on gardening. 

    Chin Chin has also crafted two special cocktails for the occasion: the Smokey Daddy, featuring Woodford Reserve bourbon, sweet vermouth, fino and orange shrub and bitters; and the Sugar Daddy, made from Reposado tequila, yuzushu, peach, lime leaf and a squeeze of lime. 

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    5. Once Upon a Time Degustation

    Slide on your glass slippers and get ready for a feast that will leave you feeling happily ever after. Affordable fine dining favourite Nel has reopened its doors for physically distanced dining and they’re inviting you to be their guest with the return of a Disney-themed degustation.

    ‘Once Upon a Time’ involves eleven dishes with a nostalgia-inducing creative touch. Last year’s menu gained international notoriety for the controversial ‘Bambi’s Mum’, which came complete with dukkah served in rifle casings. While chef Nelly Robinsion is focussing his attention this year on happier childhood memories, it is safe to say that there’s still a lowkey morbid edge that will have vegans and vegetarians steering clear. For example, the new and improved plates include the ‘Bambi and Thumper’, a venison carpaccio served with rabbit terrine.

    You can bet this menu will be seasoned with a liberal peppering of shock and surprise, so details of many of the dishes remain strictly under wraps. However, we have been granted a quick peek into the magic mirror, and if Disney references galore are what you're hungry for, this bounty is the Cave of Wonders you seek. Savoury ‘Eat Me’ cookies, ala Wonderland, begin the journey before you plunge into the big blue with ‘Just Keeping Swimming’ – a pan-fried dory served with fennel. Next, you'll chill out to a Frozen fantasy, the ‘Melted Snowman’. This yogurt lad comes served on top of black garlic bread complete with a carrot nose and black iced eyes. To finish, you'll feel like you’ve found true love’s kiss with ‘Roses Are Red, Beasts Are Blue’, a gateau opera cake served up with a side of smashed rose. 

    Bookings are now open for this fantastical degustation, which will be on the table between August 4 and November 7, with sittings from Tuesday to Saturday – for the first time ever, the degustation menu will also be available for Saturday lunch. The Once Upon a Time menu will set you back $135 per person, with optional drink-matching packages available in alcoholic ($105) and non-alcoholic ($50) beverages.

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    6. Western Sydney Parklands Food Fest

    Western Sydney's favourite food event, the Western Sydney Parklands Food Fest, has headed online for its ninth annual event. The free event will include two online cooking classes, filmed live at the Food Fest's virtual kitchen and hosted on the parklands' Facebook page.

    Celebrity chef Matt Moran will teach two cooking demonstrations, one at 11 am and one at 1pm. Both will use the parklands' very own fresh produce, and those in the Sydney metro area can order a produce box filled with everything needed to make everything in both classes before the event.

    And what delectable treats will Moran be teaching you how to make? The 11am class is called Farm to Plate and will include step-by-step instructions to make pan-roasted barramundi with blistered cherry tomatoes; butter lettuce salad with goat's cheese, peas and preserved lemon; and roasted cauliflower with anchovy burnt butter.

    The 1pm class is called Waste Not, Want Not, and in it Moran will teach you how to make barra-masalata (yes, that's taramasalata with barramundi) with potato crisps; barbecued lamb cutlets with chimichurri; and tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad with quick-pickled onion and basil dressing. The Waste Not, Want Not class will use the offcuts of the barramundi from the morning class, highlighting the importance of using a whole ingredient and eliminating food waste. Moran will be joined by Travis Harvey, executive chef of OzHarvest, which fights food waste and donates leftover food to those in need.

    The Western Sydney Parklands' website includes recipes for all six dishes, so if you don't order the produce box, you can make sure you have all the ingredients you need on hand. You can also buy a produce box from the parklands' urban farms after the class, to make the meals Moran will show you or any number of delicious dishes with the freshest fruit and veggies.  

    Get your apron ready on Saturday, September 5 for the classes at 11am and 1pm and learn how to cook without food waste at the Western Sydney Parklands' ninth annual Food Fest.

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    7. Friendship as a Way of Life

    The notion of ‘family’ has long been a cornerstone of queer identity and a major new exhibition at the UNSW Galleries explores what ‘being together’ means for different queer subcultures – in Australia, internationally and across time.

    The work of more than 20 artists and artist collaborations, along with a series of films, plus material from the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, has been compiled for the exhibition by curators José Da Silva and Kelly Doley. 

    Perhaps the most visible feature of Friendship as a Way of Life is the foyer of UNSW Galleries, which American artist Macon Reed has transformed into a ‘Dyke Bar’ for the duration of the exhibition. Including a full bar, pool table, neon signs and hand-painted '70s-era wood panelling, the installation is titled ‘Eulogy for a Dyke Bar’ and asks why dyke and lesbian bars are increasingly rare on the gay and queer cultural landscape.

    Among the international contingent for this show are the Berlin-based artists Elmgreen & Dragset, famous for their witty installation art designed for public places. Camilo Godoy, a politically motivated New York-based Colombian artist, is exhibiting some of his photographic portraits of friends and lovers. Collaborative work by transfeminist artist AK Burns and AL Steiner (Chicks on Speed) is in the show, as is work by US artists ALOK and Mark Aguhar. 

    Australian artists represented include Frances Barrett, Shannon Michael Cane, Helen Grace, Gavin Kirkness and the AIDS Quilt Project, Dani Marti, Parallel Park (Holly Bates and Tayla Jay Haggarty), Nikos Pantazopoulos and Ella Sutherland. 

    In addition to the exhibition, an online talk series called Flesh Meet is covering topics such as alternative club culture in Australia, and online culture and communication practices. Scholars Dr Kerryn Drysdale and Dr Sophie Robinson will discuss the rise, decline and transformation of lesbian and queer social scenes over two talks on September 17 and 24; digital media scholar Paul Byron online queer spaces on October 1; and DJ Sezzo will reflect on the ideas and intentions behind her QPOC (queer people of colour) focussed experiential club nights on October 15. Before all this, co-curator José Da Silva will sit down for an in-conversation with artist Dani Marti on September 3 to discuss his work and his major video installation that navigates issues of power and care in human relationships. Check out the full online talks program here.

    The exhibition runs until November 21. 

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    8. Champainting at Sea Life Sydney

    Step aside Nemo and Dory – it’s time to find Crush (and paint him too). Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is opening its doors after dark to offer a VIP experience with sip and paint studio, Cork and Canvas.

    At this over-the-top experience you’ll be greeted with Champagne before having free reign of the Aquarium’s exhibits and settling in for a guided painting session surrounded by creatures of the briny deep.

    This isn’t a boozy art class like you know it, the luxurious “Champainting” package includes a practically unheard of three-hour bottomless drinks package with tipples including red and white wine, beer, house spirits and soft drinks. Gourmet grazing platters of assorted meats, cheese, antipasti and breads are also included, so you’ll be able to satisfy your craving for nibbles at the canvas. 

    During your exclusive self-guided after-hours journey around the Aquarium you can check out Australia’s unique marine environments and check out more than 13,000 animals from 700 different species, including the fan favourite Pig the dugong. The Champainting portion is hosted in an area the Aquarium calls Turtle Beach, where you’ll have unfiltered views of the Great Barrier Reef-inspired exhibit that its newest resident, Plugga the rescue turtle, calls home. You can choose whether the inspiration for your artwork will be the a Green Sea Turtle like Plugga or a funky jellyfish.

    This swish experience is open for bookings of a minimum 20 people at $195 a head (Gold and Platinum packages also available at an extra cost). You can book your private event here. If you don’t have that many friends, or you’re just looking to impress your iso-crush with a memorable date, there is also a public event on Wednesday, September 30, for $130 per person with more public sessions being added regularly. Check out more dates and book here. Go on, isn't it better down where it's wetter?

    9. Carriageworks Farmers Market

    It’s imperative that you do not eat before you visit the Carriageworks Farmers Markets. You’ll want to save maximum belly space for your personal version of The Bachelorette where you decide who gets your dollars and what delicious produce gets to come home with you. Maybe you like something soupy and savoury first thing? In that case go for the pho stand for a traditional Vietnamese start to the day. There’s a bibimbap stall that will even replace the rice with shredded cauliflower if you don’t believe in cheat days, and a classic bacon and egg roll for creatures of habit, from Farmer Rod’s Free Range stall. 

    Once the hounds of your hunger have been quieted it’s time to prepare for your next meal, or seven. Maybe you need the sweet bite of Pickle Hill’s Worcester sauce for the pantry? Or some fresh goat’s curd from Willowbrae? While you’re there you may as well get some smoked salmon, fresh ravioli from Pasta Emilia, free range eggs, a load of beer and barley bread form the Bread and Butter Project, and some jersey milk butter to go on it.

    Chef Josh Niland of Fish Butchery and Saint Peter in Paddington now has a permanent stall selling inventive seafood using lesser known varieties and flavours. His prawn toast is a certified hangover buster, and the few cooked items sold change with the tide. There are usually take-home packs of fish sausages and Ballina prawns as big as your hand.

    You can spend a whole lot of money if you want to here, but equally you could just grab a kombucha on tap and find a chair for some of the best dog-watching in the city.

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    10. World Press Photo

    One of Sydney’s most popular annual exhibitions, World Press Photo brings together the most astonishing, thought-provoking and often beautiful images published by photojournalists in the past twelve months. This year, due to restrictions relating to you-know-what, the State Library will be the only venue in the country to play host to the collection.

    The exhibition trains its eye across a variety of subjects, from nature photography to snapshots from the frontlines of war to portraits and spectacular candid shots. It features more than 150 of the most spectacular images from 2019, submitted by 44 photographers hailing from 24 countries.

    The prestigious Photo of the Year Award was won by Yasuyoshi Chiba for a photograph taken on June 19, 2019. It shows a young man by the light of mobile phones, reciting protest
    poetry in a government-imposed blackout attempting to suppress protests in Khartoum, Sudan. An Australian photographer, Matthew Abbott, was awarded second prize in the Spot News category for his portfolio of images which include his remarkable and widely shared image of a kangaroo silhouetted against the ruins of a burning house near Lake Conjola in NSW, captured during the summer bushfire disaster of 2019-20.

    The exhibition is free and can be viewed at the State Library of NSW on Macquarie Street,
    from 15 August to 18 October 2020. Hygiene and strict physical distancing measures will be in place.

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     11. The Wizard’s Den

    While you won’t find the greasy-haired potions masters or famed boy wizards at this creative drinking experience, you will have a lot of fun if you’re keen on the occult.

    Channel the powers of your coven idol, from Sabrina to Hermione and any of the kids from Wizards of Waverly Place, and brew devilish concoctions in your cauldron – but not before you implore the skills of dark sorcery to unlock your potion ingredients in an escape room style challenge. 

    The Wizard’s Den, an immersive experience that invites you to escape to a world of witches, wizards and potion making (read: cocktail making) is back for Semester II. If you were amongst those tempted into donning a cape and wand at Semester I of the experience in Surry Hills last year, don’t go expecting the same hat tricks this time round. This time your ghoulish potions master Morticia Le Mort will be nec-romancing you with “classes in levitation, evocation and cyromancy”.

    Your golden ticket to this two-hour dose of escapism will set you back $40 (plus booking fee), which includes two cocktails and the use of a wand. Wizards and witches in attendance are encouraged to BYO robes (in Semester I, these garments were also supplied, but not even the strongest banishing spell can overrule public health and safety measures in 2020). 

    The Wizard’s Den is being conjured upstairs at the Wonderland Bar, the Alice In Wonderland inspired drinking den in the former home of the World Bar in Potts Point. The potions class is open between September 9 and November 25, with multiple evening sessions Wednesday through Sunday starting from 5.30pm and running until late, as well as weekend afternoon events from 2pm. This experience is strictly 18+, however junior conjurers are welcome at an all-ages family-friendly event on Sunday, September 13 at 2pm. Check out sessions and availability here.