A guide to Firelight Festival Opening Weekend

This winter is your chance to see Docklands in a new light… Firelight! The Firelight Festival Opening Weekend kicks off Friday 29 June until Sunday 1 July from 5pm to 10pm each night, with midwinter rituals and timeless traditions, all based around music, art and fire. Good things to eat and drink are all part of the journey. Here’s what not to miss on the opening weekend of Melbourne’s solstice celebration.

a large wooden sculpture in the shape of a bird with a crowd of people around it

Firelight Festival celebrates midwinter rituals and timeless traditions of art, music and fire

Welcome to Country

Begin your Firelight Festival journey each night with a traditional smoking ceremony on Harbour Esplanade. Boon Wurrung Elder N’arweet Carolyn Briggs will welcome you to the Traditional lands of the Kulin Nation.

Let the music play

Dedicated Docklands locations are raring to go with a program of musical performances each night. Head to the western end of NewQuay Promenade on Friday night for New Orleans jazzy business from The Sugarfoot Ramblers, and high-energy bluegrass and fiddle tunes from Devil Goat Family String Band. Saturday night sees punked-out seven piece street band Horns of Leroy bringing the brass ruckus. The mood swings down a notch when Mariachi Los Romanticos, bedecked in their traditional embroidered Mexican suits, announce their swoonsome Latin rhythms. On Sunday, Vardos play gypsy and traditional music learnt from Roma musicians during their travels in Eastern Europe, as well as an encore performance from The Sugarfoot Ramblers.

A man playing the clarinet with a drum, percussion instruments and brass instruments on his back

Enjoy over 40 performances a night from all corners of the globe

Harbour Esplanade will be transformed by the Lolo The Gypsy Caravan Stage: a 16 foot, 1978 Viscount Ambassador, aluminium, deep red spotted, antique white caravan converted into an intimate performance space. Hosting each night will be Lolo Lovina and their exuberant Balkan beats ranging from cabaret styles to heavy metal, swing and tango all shaken and stirred into an intoxicating cocktail. Complementing them on Friday will be The Royal High Jinx with their gypsy jazz, classical virtuosity, and sprinkling of burlesque exuberance. On Saturday night catch Devil Goat Family String Band while on Sunday night Middle-Eastern inspired trio Alwan play sublime Turkish, Arabic and Israeli music.

On Friday night, at the western end of Victoria Harbour Promenade, Alwan and Vardos take the stage. Saturday night shakes things up as The Twoks duo bring their eclectic mix of dark and bright, art and pop sounds via violin and drums. The party gets started with B Cardamone feat. Nathan Sinclair playing classic and modern hits across pop, R&B, soul, Latin and jazz. Sunday introduces the hot Dixieland punk dotted with haunting seaside lullabies and street corner stomp of Lily & King, with a chaser of The Royal High Jinx. If you love to dance, Orange Silent Disco with Guru Dudu departs from Library at the Dock for three twenty minute sessions on Friday 29 June, between 6.30 and 8.30pm. 

Rovin’, rovin’

Across the Docklands area, there’ll be roving performers to keep the vibes popping. Fire performers and solstice inspired stilt walkers will make you gasp, while percussion crews Not My Circus and Drumline will get pagan drum circles going. Elsewhere one-man-band Uptown Brown with his pre-WW2 jazz and blues will have you dancing along with boot stomping space cadet power trio Chaos Magnet.

Man blowing fire with crowd watching

Be mesmerised by the fire performers

What’s to eat and drink?

Across the three main sites you’ll find blazing BBQ, giant paellas, Roman pizzas, warming soups, Asian street food, hot drinks, delicious desserts, mulled wine, hot chocolate (and much more!) to keep you warm on the inside.

A huge pan of rice over a flame

Feast on blazing BBQ, giant paellas, Roman pizzas, warming soups, Asian street food and more

Set it on fire!

Every night a giant handmade wooden sculptures created by Melbourne artist Christian Patton will be set ablaze evoking the age old solstice rituals that invite good fortune and ward off evil spirits for the coming year. All accompanied by pyrotechnics and a soundtrack by DJ Peewee Ferris.

And let’s not forget the spectacular fireworks. Timeless traditions meet new ways, and it’s all on show at Firelight Festival.

A wooden sculpture shaped like a man is set on fire

A giant wooden sculpture created by Melbourne artist Christian Patton will be set ablaze each night


Find out what else is on during Firelight Festival, including dinners, music and fireside storytelling, in our ultimate guide to the Firelight Festival.

For more information on getting to and from the celebrations, read Firelight Festival 2018 – getting there.