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Family inspects native plants at Sydney Park
Photograph: Supplied/City of Sydney Sydney Park

September events in Sydney

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

By Maxim Boon

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.

Shake off those winter cobwebs with a stroll through a flower-filled garden, a refreshing dip in one of the city's ocean pools, or if you really want to give yourself a thorough spring airing, bust out the birthday suit at one of Sydney's best nude beaches.

It's also the perfect time of year to give your home, garden or balcony a glow-up with some leafy additions, so head to these top plant nurseries where you can pick up a few new fronds.

RECOMMENDED: How to go our safely in Sydney right now.

September's best events

Wall of flowers
Photograph: Supplied/RBG

1. In Bloom Exhibition

Things to do

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. 

P.S. Here are some more excellent things to do this weekend


Time Out Love Local campaign logo

Time Out’s Love Local campaign is supporting local food, drink and culture businesses in Sydney. Find out how you can help save the places that make our city great.

Champainting at Sydney Sealife
Photograph: Supplied

2. Champainting at Sea Life Sydney

Things to do Classes and workshops Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Darling Harbour

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?

Did you know you can also book out this entire zoo in Darling Harbour for you and nine mates?

Time Out Love Local campaign logo

Time Out’s Love Local campaign is supporting local food, drink and culture businesses in Sydney. Find out how you can help save the places that make our city great.

Fresh produce at Carriageworks Farmers Markets
Photograph: Daniel Boud

3. Carriageworks Farmers Market

Shopping Markets Carriageworks, Eveleigh

The Carriageworks Farmers Market is resuming from August 8, 2020.

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.

Find more of the best markets in Sydney.

A pale blue and orange 3D printing of a human heart
Photograph: Supplied

4. Design for Life

Art Design Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo

We’ve all got one eye on our health at the moment, though it’s very rare that we think of the science behind life-saving equipment and the beauty of art going hand-in-hand. Reality is, creativity hums in every machine we make.

That’s the thinking behind new Powerhouse exhibition Design for Life. Exploring the central role of design in the health and medical sector, it’s all about celebrating the oft-overlooked intersection between innovation and art. Showcasing some 200+ objects from the museum’s collection, it will trace the evolution of the medical equipment that has been saving human lives from the late 1800s right up until today.

You can take a closer look at how things like life-saving respiratory devices work, how surgical masks have changed over the centuries, huge leaps in progress on medicine, how we monitor our hearts and brains, and the incredible possibilities opened up by 3D bioprinting. It also demonstrates the hugely collaborative approach at play, in Australia and between nations.

An exciting look at the great minds behind these inventions, Powerhouse Museum chief executive Lisa Havilah says they’re thrilled to support the latest in science and design innovation with Design for Life. “As science and technology accelerate, the body’s capacities, perception, longevity and durability are being pushed to new limits. Recent partnerships between the medical sciences and design industry have pioneered medical equipment to help this and improve the quality of human life.”

Running from September 26, 2020, to January 31, 2021, entry is free, but booking is essential. For more information, click here

Want more art that explores how we live our lives? Check out Hybrid

Kirribilli Art and Design Markets
Photograph: Anna Kucera

5. Kirribilli Art, Design & Fashion Markets

Shopping Markets Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre, Kirribilli

Update: The Kirribili Markets are open again from July 12. Head over on the second Sunday of every month for the art, design and fashion markets. The last Saturday of every month sees a whole range of new and second hand fashion, collectibles and jewellery. 

Fans of expertly curated market events such as the Finders Keepers will be happy to know there is a bi-monthly market offering a comparable experience a stone’s throw from Luna Park. The second Sunday of every month sees the art, design and fashion iteration of Kirribilli’s historic (est 1976) markets, centred on the weather-proof location of the Burton Street Tunnel right under Milsons Point Train station. 

You’ll find quirky millinery by Nitascraft, hilarious knitted parrots, octopuses and Barbie outfits by Irene, and cool laser-etched wooden phone cases by Bare-wood. An antiques corner features groovy typewriters from the 1960s and several stalls offer funny and handmade greeting cards. Vintage spoons are refashioned as bracelets, and if you’ve ever hankered after a large photographic portrait of a wombat, you can get it here – the place is a goldmine for non-tacky Sydney souvenirs.

On the last Saturday of the month is the general and fashion market, where punters have been known to snap up luxurious, one-of-a-kind finds from labels like Gucci, Zimmermann and Acne, thanks to the well-heeled crowds selling their wares. Arrival by train is recommended as parking is expensive and hard to come by. 

There is an excellent food court area where you can get a roast pork roll, quesadillas, churros, gözleme, paella, blynis, dim sum, banh mi or gelato and sit down undercover to eat them while watching a talented teenage girl reinventing ‘Sweet Child ‘o Mine’. Afterwards, head over to the outdoor fashion zone on the former lawn bowls green and browse the $10 and $20 bargains. These markets are highly recommended to anyone seeking gifts and a fun Sunday outing. 

Archibald Prize 2019 Winner Tony Costa with his painting 'Lindy Lee'
Photograph: Diana Panuccio

6. Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2020

Art Galleries Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Australia’s most prestigious arts prizes are back in a big way after being postponed by you know what. The show-stopping Archibald Prize, first awarded in 1921, is always a huge event on Sydney’s cultural scene, with the subjects captured for posterity are usually celebrity-packed. From portraits depicting film stars to politicians, sporting heroes to artists themselves, we can’t wait to see who shows up in canvas, and IRL.

The accompanying Wynne Prize is awarded to the best landscape painting of Australian scenery, or figure sculpture, while the Sulman Prize is given to the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project in oil, acrylic, watercolour or mixed media. The Young Archies showcase the work of budding artists aged 5–18.

The trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW judge the Archibald and Wynne, with an invited an artist yet-to-be-announced picking the Sulman. Finalists will be announced on September 17 and you can vote on the ANZ People’s Choice until December 13,

Gallery director Michael Brand says, “After much anticipation from artists and audiences alike, we are very pleased to announce new dates for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2020 exhibition and to now invite entries from artists across Australia who have been waiting to hear when the exhibition will be held.” 

A pendulum swinging over an under-lit glass bowl
Photograph: Supplied

7. Hybrid: Objects for Future Homes

Art Design Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo

The Powerhouse Museum continues to bring the arty goodness to Sydney’s heart with brand-new exhibition Hybrid. Taking a look at what homes might look like ten years from now – because seriously, we’re so over 2020 already – it promises to be a forward-thinking dream for Grand Designs watchers.

Part of Sydney Design Week 2020, the show has been curated by creative director and esteemed writer design Stephen Todd, design editor at the Australian Financial Review. He tasked nine design studios to work alongside researchers and practitioners from a host of alternative industries, together brainstorming new ways to tackle the urban lifestyle for our domestic futures. They were asked to look at our new normal, from the climate crisis and subsequent longer, scarier bushfire seasons to our current global predicament. Taking a look at the fascinating results, there’s nary a jet pack nor hoverboard in sight.

The team includes innovative Australian industrial designer Adam Goodrum working alongside furnituremaker Ella Williams, and Dutch immersive art and design duo Golnar Roshan and Ruben de la Rive Box – aka Rive Roshan – collaborating with local spatial designer Emmaline Cox.

Bringing wellbeing and heart to where the home is, the works range from lighting that emulates the great outdoors inside to stools made from recycled plastic. Thirroul-based designer and lecturer at the University of New South Wales Art & Design Trent Jansen has re-teamed with Nyikina man and leatherworker Johnny Nargoodah. We’re particularly keen to see what they come up with after their previous collaboration, ‘Ngumu Janka Warnti (All Made from Rubbish) High Back Chair’ (pictured), which was stunning.

Todd argues the way we live and how we experience our homes has been radically altered, so he wanted to see new solutions that think outside the box. “The primary role of the home in the 21st century is to be a sanctuary, a respite from the clamour of daily life, the ultimate refuge in these times of crisis,” he says. “For the Hybrid commission, we asked creatives outside of the field of design to create domestic artefacts for our future.”

With the intriguing exhibition running from September 12 to February 28, you can mainline your designs for life right here.

Want more inspiring art? Check out Fijian-Australian show Bittersweet.

Khaled Sabsabi's 'Organised confusion' 2014 (video still)
Photograph: Khaled Sabsabi

8. A Promise: Khaled Sabsabi

Art Galleries Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Awesome Western-Sydney artist Khaled Sabsabi gets the solo show treatment at Art Gallery of NSW, in partnership with the Campbelltown Art Centre.

Sabsabi and his family fled Tripoli and headed to Sydney with in the 1970s to escape the Lebanese civil war. Starting out on the hip-hop scene, he shifted to visual arts in the '90s. Regularly returning to the Middle East, his incredible body of work draws on the confluence of spiritual belief, politics and conflict in the region.

A Promise presents major works exploring the complex relationship between self and other and includes large-scale works from AGNSW’s collection, like ‘Organised confusion’ (2014), putting the fanaticism and Western Sydney Wanderers football fans under the lens, as well as new works.

The first solo artist exhibition to launch since the gallery reopened, director Dr Michael Brand said A Promise is a poignant reminder of the role of art and artists during challenging times. “We are delighted to have collaborated with Khaled on A Promise. His work resonates in new and unexpected ways at this time when our collective behaviour, beliefs and responsibilities have such urgent and apparent ramifications.”

The exhibition will run for an indefinite period.

Justene Williams 'The Unboxers' (still) 2020, from Hyper-link
Photograph: Justene Williams

9. Hyper-linked

Art Digital and interactive Your place, Sydney

Embracing these hybrid times when we’re often online more than we’re out and about, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has launched the mother of all digital galleries, and it’s a kaleidoscopic trip to creative wonderland.

Part of their ongoing Together in Art series, Hyper-linked assembles seven exciting contemporary Australian artists pushing the envelope on how we engage with art from wherever we are in the world.

Heath Franco’s 'Home Videohome' is a trippy, dystopian stare into the abyss of the interwebs through the search portals of doom. You'll very likely recognise one in particular, but to avoid any nasty lawsuit, it's been rebranded as Newspider. Get caught up in this web full of unnerving animalistic figures and ‘90s-style pop video imagery gone awry. It’s wrong-town in all the right ways.

Justene Williams’ explosively colourful video 'The Unboxers' opens with shades of apocalyptic wrestling matches and a montage with a glimpse of a superhero-like character who resembles someone who rhymes with Maptain Carvel (prob don’t want Disney legalling this either). With creatures that look like sun-melted lollies and a bizarre egg experiment, it’s loopy goodness inspired by the unfurling of the legendary Bob Fosse's jazz hands.

JD Reforma’s dreamy drone imagery in ‘I Want to Believe’ captures stolen glances of the world as seen from Sydney’s rooftops, with the traffic drifting by oblivious below. Exploring the idea of escape from abusive relationships, what at first seems like freedom comes to connote imprisonment, as a cry for help emerges in paint.

You can learn what fate has in store for you courtesy of Kate Mitchell’s ‘The Communication Deck’, a digital tarot reading. Meanwhile, Brian Fuata’s ‘Of a House Besieged (Preposition Tweaked)’ – a ghostly, silhouetted reading in an empty gallery scattered with discarded pages – is spookily good. Matthew Griffin’s ‘Hello Visibility: Darts, Sites, Bricks, Hearts, Roads’ explores the way we use language, asking in a video series if a ‘brick’ phone is really a bad thing?

And while we’re talking about phones, Amrita Hepi’s brilliantly inventive interactive experience ‘Cass’ asks you to engage in a text communication via your phone, answering Y/N to a series of questions.

Senior curator of contemporary Australian art Isobel Parker Philip says the exhibition is an opportunity to reflect on how the internet has infiltrated and transformed our lives.

Hyper-linked considers the split state of being disconnected and hyper-connected at the same time,” she says. Many of us have found ourselves confined by the limits of the domestic space, yet we simultaneously broadcast our lives in bite-size chunks over social media. The personas we project through Zoom meetings, Instagram and FaceTime catchups are performative. The artists in this exhibition are examining the role the internet plays in shaping our lives and the ways in which we relate. They bear witness and pay tribute to our networked selves.”

If you weren’t already convinced to explore this genuinely brilliant online art extravaganza, then it also comes with an oddly soothing essay from Philip that’s part explainer, part photographic investigation of the myriad marvels of mushrooms – because who doesn’t think fungi are awesome?

Want more provocative art? Explore queer sensation Friendship as a Way of Life.

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas


Bell Shakespeare founder John Bell 2020 sitting on a stool
Photograph: Supplied

10. One Man In His Time: John Bell and Shakespeare

Theatre Drama Multiple venues

If drama is your deal and you’ve sorely missed theatre during lockdown, you cannot wait to see hit musicals Hamilton and Come From Away, and are itching to get back to venues like Belvoir and the STC, then the Sydney Opera House has a digital event that just might interest you.

In partnership with renowned company Bell Shakespeare, they present one of the most celebrated figures in the Australian theatre scene: Bell Shakespeare founder John Bell. He sat down solo on the Joan Sutherland stage to perform an excerpt from One Man In His Time, which explores the beauty of Shakespeare’s enduring poetry, nimble use of language and imagery, and the legacy of Bell’s lifetime spent performing and producing the Bard's work.

A gift to the ages, Bell has always maintained that the works of Shakespeare should be accessible to everyone, and this free digital performance sure helps reach out to the masses. The one-man show was recorded live and will be ready to stream at home any time from Friday, August 28 at 8pm. It should be a salve for sore hearts for those that hold dear to the idea, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

We hope Bell will still be doing his thing for a few acts more, and in the meantime, his wise words will warm us while we wait for all of Sydney’s theatres to switch off the ghost lights and welcome us back in with open arms.

Want to know more about the return of STC? Read about Wonnangatta here

People painting on canvas and drinking wine.
Photograph: Supplied

11. Cork and Canvas

Things to do Classes and workshops Cork and Canvas Crows Nest, Crows Nest

The fine artists from Cork and Canvas have been spreading colour all over Sydney with their wine and painting classes. Even while we were all stuck at home, they kept us occupied with creativity kits and on-demand virtual classes – and now as the city opens back up, they’re inviting us back into the studio again.

That’s right, you can dip your brush and wet your whistle in public once more at their Crows Nest and Darlinghurst sip and paint studios, with classes having started up again in early June. While the doors have been closed, the team have been busy coming up with new paintings for budding artists to interpret, including a ‘Stargazing’ design on a brand new round canvas. 

The studios are amping up hygiene and safety practices, including spacing out guests in accordance with 1.5 metre physical distancing rules (allowing for couples and small groups to sit together), offering hand sanitizer at the door and sanitizing all equipment and wine glasses. 

Check out the website for session times for both the Crows Nest and Darlinghurst studios and to make your booking. Most classes run from Wednesday through Saturday nights, with afternoon sessions on Sundays and some Saturdays, starting at $55 including materials (just BYO wine and snacks). 

For anyone who is out of town or who’d rather stay home, Cork and Canvas is continuing to offer virtual alternatives, providing step-by-step video classes and mailing out creativity kits nationally, from $80. 

It isn’t too late to pick up an iso-hobby and have the picture evidence to prove it. And if you’re nervous about picking up a brush, just grab a bottle of vino for inspiration and let these guys help to lead your brush strokes. 

Looking for art classes you can take from the comfort of home? Check out the sip and paint classes that saw us through lockdown.

A still from  Lisa Reihana 'Nomads of the Sea' depicting a female captain at the wheel of a ship
Photograph: Lisa Reihana

12. The Biennale of Sydney 2020

Things to do

Every other year, the Biennale of Sydney transforms the city’s major creative institutions into an exhilarating showcase of the world's most exciting artists. Wiradjuri man Brook Andrew took the reins as the Biennale’s first Indigenous Australian artistic director this year, with the Wiradjuri word “Nirin” (edge) his theme for the 22nd iteration. 

Championing First Nations artists from near and far, there’s a big focus on further decolonising Western art’s traditionally hallowed spaces, ensuring we all get to touch the edge of the sky and understand one another through new cultural lenses.

Of course, things got a little unexpectedly waylaid as restrictions on mass gatherings meant venues closed their doors ten days in, but that didn’t stop the creative spirit. Nirin successfully went digital and now the doors have re-opened with an extended run, including the addition of Carriageworks after a nail-biting drama. 

With a staggering 700 works on show from 101 artists, it can be overwhelming figuring out just what to see. Don't panic, here’s our insider’s guide to the Biennale of Sydney.

Seek out wide open spaces

People sitting in the Botanic Gardens Sydney at sunset
People sitting in the Botanic Gardens Sydney at sunset
Photograph: Supplied

Where to find the best Sydney parks

Attractions Parks and gardens

Whether you’re in need of a green garden to laze in during lunch or a just quiet spot away from the city, these Sydney parks have sprawling open spaces, free barbecues and shaded corners to while away an afternoon.


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