Perth Festival’s City of Lights display unveiled at Perth Cultural Centre in Northbridge | Ralph Lauren

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Perth Festival finally lights up for 2021 tonight with an illuminating celebration of Noongar culture and WA history in the CBD.

Running until March 14, City of Lights features large-scale projections on buildings and spaces in the Perth Cultural Centre.

The centrepiece of the free installation event is Bilya Beneath, a deeply evocative short film flowing from the fact Northbridge was built on what was once a source of fresh water for the Whadjuk Noongar people.

On the hour, every hour each night from 8pm, Bilya Beneath will flood the Art Gallery of WA, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, State Library, State Theatre and WA Museum Boola Bardip with sound and vision.

The stunning visuals are accompanied by Boodja Kooradarminy, a new composition from Noongar singer-songwriters Della Rae Morrison and Charley Caruso, which is performed by Morrison and respected local figure Barry McGuire.

Looped visuals will screen in between airings of Bilya Beneath.

One highlight sure to be a big hit with families is the projection on the old Hackett Hall at the museum, with the 1913 building deconstructed, reconstructed, daubed in rainbow colours and flooded.

Giant squids and dinosaurs burst out of its windows and even Otto, the skeleton of the Blue Whale housed inside Hackett Hall, stars in the eye-popping projection.

History buffs will love the State Theatre of WA’s massive fly wall, which becomes the canvas for Life Through the Lens — former Richard Court government minister Max Evans’ Super-8 footage spanning four decades.

Evans was instrumental in establishing City of Lights sponsor Lotterywest and his grainy footage capturing the Queen’s visit to Perth in 1954 to the defence of the America’s Cup will be beamed onto the 20m by 15m wall during City of Lights.

Perth Festival's City of Lights
Camera IconPerth Festival’s City of Lights Credit: The West Australian/Simon Collins, The West Australian
Perth Festival's City of Lights
Camera IconPerth Festival’s City of Lights Credit: The West Australian/Simon Collins, The West Australian

Custom-built for the unusual shapes of each building, City of Lights boasts more than 200,000 lumens of projection spread across the eight sites with 13 projectors. The average home projector has 3500 lumens.

The projectors can be controlled remotely and utilise more than a kilometre of four-core fibre optic cabling.

Organisers say City of Lights was a huge undertaking to design, build and test with limited time-frames and notable interruptions from the COVID-related lockdown.

The free family-friendly event was supposed to kick off on February 5 before Perth Festival pushed back their entire 2021 program.

Perth Festival artistic director Iain Grandage said the projections transformed the buildings of the Cultural Centre into “canvases for the imagination”.

The City of Lights display at the WA State Library.
Camera IconThe City of Lights display at the WA State Library. Credit: Matt Jelonek/WireImage

“These familiar buildings will be flooded with vivid colours and powerful stories of our place in the world,” he said, “surrounding everyone who walk through with an environment of colour, light and sound.”

City of Lights rewards both those who are passing through en route to dinner or a show, as well as people taking their time in this open-air exhibition.

The Festival encouraged visitors to catch some entertainment at the State Theatre Centre, which will host performances from Grammy Award-winner Lucky Oceans and Afro-beat outfit Black Brass, or The Rechabite, where Fringe World’s encore season continues until Festival experience Art Feast begins on March 3.

Ballet at the Quarry and Barking Gecko Theatre’s HOUSE are among the first productions to hit the stage for this year’s delayed event.

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