Free things to do today
Birdcage Comedy is a new monthly queer comedy night that runs alongside Enmore's queerest shin-dig, Birdcage at the Slyfox. This new edition to the comedy scene is proving to be one of Sydney’s top comedy events and pulls a crowd, with recent comics like Siam Smith, Nina Oyama and Bea Barbeau-Scurla. Once the comedy is wrapped up make sure to stick around for a boogie as the space turns into a dancefloor with a line-up of some of Sydney’s hottest DJs.
The Museum of Contemporary Art stays open until 9pm each Wednesday night with a program of live music on the terrace, discussions, performances, talks and workshops, to complement the exhibitions. The indoor-outdoor MCA Cafe, on the Sculpture Terrace, also stays open until 9pm. It's got some of the best views of the harbour at night – assuming there aren't any cruise ships. See our hitlist of art exhibitions this month and check out where else you can enjoy art at night.
July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landings and to celebrate, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre is launching a month of lunar-themed arty events, including three new exhibitions. In Astronaut, artists such as Adam Norton, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding consider the world of space exploration from the perspective of the astronaut, exploring the impact of space travel on the body and the sounds of space. Future takes inspiration from the films and posters of the “space race” of the 1950s and 1960s and examines how contemporary artists such as Christelle Hug, Michael Cook, Clinton Gorst and David Greenhalgh have created their own futuristic visions. Finally, Under the Same Moon explores cultural beliefs, myths and legends surrounding the moon, and features works by artists including Daniel Boyd, Guan Wei, Hedar Abadi and Leanne Tobin.
If you don’t have the means to check out the Cherry Blossom Festival in Auburn’s Botanic Gardens, you can still celebrate the blooming buds in World Square from August 12-September 1. The main difference here is that you can play with the cherry blossom via an immersive augmented reality experience. This year, there’ll also be real life blossoms to interact with as well as the floating tech ones, plus other activities including traditional Japanese drumming, origami and bonsai workshops, calligraphy performance and Yosakoi Soran dancing. If you’re a top student in the origami workshops, you can contribute to the installation of 1,000 paper cranes that visitors will be folding for the festival. Then, give yourself an edible reward with one of the many blossom-themed specials being offered at nearby retailers. Oh! Matcha will be pouring sakura-flavoured milkshakes and soft-serve ice cream, the cocktails at Laughing Buddha Bar will lean heavily on cherry, and Fratelli Famous Pizzeria will be spinning Japanese inspired pizzas throughout the festival. Teriyaki, anyone?
Every Wednesday and Saturday, you can pick up a bag of crunchy carrots, loaf of warm sourdough and an armful of flowers at EQ’s Cambridge Markets. Entertainment Quarter has been home to a fresh produce and arts and crafts market for 20 years, and in 2018 market experts Madelienne Anderson and Rebecca Fox took over the show, adding EQ to their list of market spaces around Sydney, from Watsons Bay to Cronulla. There are up to 70 stallholders peddling gourmet cheeses, ripe cherry tomatoes and piping hot gozleme. It’s a broad mix of retailers, from fruit and veggie stalls to children’s clothing and French linen. No matter what day you visit, there are picnic benches all around the all-weather market where you can sip a coffee and soothe a hangover. Kids love the pony rides that are often available on weekends and there’s heaps of parking in Moore Park.
Shaun Gladwell is best known for his mesmerising slow motion video works depicting him skateboarding or riding BMX bikes against classic Australian backdrops, or more recently, for his virtual and augmented reality works that have been shown at the Cannes and Sydney Film Festivals. Now the Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting the largest survey exhibition of Gladwell’s work to date, tracing his evolution from skateboarding outsider (the critic John McDonald once described watching Gladwell’s burgeoning success as akin to being “the only teetotaller at a drunken party”) to cutting edge artist determined to push the technological possibilities of 21st century art as far as they will go. The exhibition has been beautifully installed in the MCA's third-floor galleries, with some video works taking over entire walls and others splashed across the floor. Highlights include 'Pacific Undertow Sequence', a 2010 video made underwater at Bondi, showing Gladwell upside down on a surfboard, struggling against the forces of nature. There's also his famous 'Storm Sequence' video, also made in Bondi (but on a skateboard, above the surface this time), and the Mad Max-esque 'Approach to Mundi Mundi', which features a motorbike rider storming down a freeway in slow motion with arms outstretched like Da Vinci's 'Vitruvian Man'. But our favourite is 'BMX Channel', which fill a massive wall with a misty seaside scene with a BMX rider in the foreground.
Tjungu Palya is an Aboriginal-owned and run art centre in South Australia, around 450 km south-west of Alice Springs at the base of the Mann Ranges. Given that it’s situated in the Nyapari community, of which there are only around 85 members, it’s a significant and influential force in Australian art. This exhibition from the centre is two years in the making and is taking place across both Artbank in Sydney and Melbourne. If you’ve not heard of Artbank, it’s an Australian government initiative that purchases works from contemporary Australian artists and rents them to the public. But they also throw some wonderful exhibitions to show their own collection. This exhibition, the full title of which is Tjungu Palyangku Tjukurpa titutjara kunpu ngaranytja-ku: As we come together we stand strong for our story, tells Tjukurpa (sacred stories) through painting, drawing and performance. There are 12 artists displaying work: Teresa Baker, Maringka Baker, Kani Tunkin Baker, Ruth Fatt, Kunmanara (Wipana) Jimmy, Beryl Jimmy, Imitjala Pollard, Keith Stevens, Bernard Tjalkuri and Ginger Wikilyiri.
Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand women with iTaukei (Indigenous Fijian) heritage take over Campbelltown Arts Centre to celebrate their culture as part of a new exhibition, Marama Dina. Featuring new commissions from ten female iTaukei artists, the exhibition explores what it means to be iTaukei outside of Fiji, and the ways in which Indigenous Fijian culture has been eroded by decades of colonisation and migration. Constructed within the exhibition is a vale ni soqo (village meeting house), offering a space where Pasifika communities can gather, and visitors can learn and explore what it is to be a ‘Fijian’ woman in Western Sydney today.
Michael Armitage is only in his mid-thirties but his uniquely beautiful paintings are in huge demand around the world. The MCA is presenting his first exhibition in Australia, which includes recent work and new large-scale paintings telling stories of folklore, history and memories from East Africa. They're painted on lubugo bark cloth, sourced from the Mutuba tree in Uganda, giving his work a unique and rough texture. Armitage is known for mashing together his own politics with some fantastical imagery to create paintings that tell strange and sometimes unsettling stories. You'll want to pick up one of the handy free guides at the entry to help explain the eclectic imagery, but even if you don't understand what's happening, the painting is undeniably beautiful.
Long before Central Station opened in 1906 and became an essential hub for Sydney life, it was an essential hub for Sydney death. Thousands of commuters make their way through the station every day now, but in the decades following 1820 the site was one of the city's biggest burial grounds. When the cemetery closed in 1901, it was overgrown and there were more than 30,000 bodies buried there. This exhibition at the State Library of NSW is a haunting look back in time to 19th century Sydney. It's experienced with a fascinating 35-minute audio track, telling the story of the site. You can listen on your own device, and it's recommended you bring your own headphones to get the best sound experience.
Free things to do on any given day
If you have visitors in town, this is a free way to check off many of the city’s historical sites in one go – and there’s a fact-filled guide to do all the talking.
The secret maybe well and truly out about this hidden garden, but it really is heart-warming story and a space worth sharing.
It’s one of Sydney's most popular walks – and for good reason. That coastline is spectacular, from every direction, and you’re in a pretty urban environment, so it’s one you can do on a whim.
Load up the picnic basket with economically baked muffins and last night's leftovers and take a road trip to find these cascading falls around Sydney.
This Willy Wonka of libraries could convert even the most ardent library sceptic. Soak up stories and knowledge among three levels bursting with greenery.
Okay, so the drinks aren't free – but the karaoke is! Book a room for up to 20 singing pals without spending your drinking dosh.
It's less than an hour's drive from the CBD, yet so many Sydneysiders haven't stepped foot in the pristine 15,091 hectares of bushland that lines the coast south of Sydney.
Got a wriggly little one? Let them run off some of that energy at these parks and playgrounds while you chill in the sun.
You'll always find a freely accessible exhibition going at this harbourside art gallery. And bar Chrsitmas, they're open every dang day of the year.
You may not want to brave the water on cooler days, but this little patch of sand in Manly is a beaut spot to sit and contemplate life whatever the weather.
Tour Sydney's street art for free
Sydney is home to a vibrant community of street artists, always ready to bring a splash of colour, a touch of provocation, or just the perfect Instagram backdrop to our city’s streets. But as with just about every piece of real estate in Sydney, these unlikely canvases are hotly contested spaces.