Media releases

Sydney springs back to life for summer

Published 29 November 2021

Live music sessions, festivals, al fresco dining and more than $12 million in events and activations will see locals and visitors enjoy a Sydney summer like never before.

The City of Sydney is reopening Sydney for everyone by safely activating the city as restrictions are lifted and bringing vibrancy to city streets, public spaces and villages.

The City of Sydney is working closely with businesses to ensure the plans continue to support them while ensuring safe and equitable access for all residents and visitors.

The plans include reactivating the city centre and local high streets, preparing for the summer events season and assisting more businesses with applications to trade outdoors.

“Encouraging locals and more visitors back into the city is at the heart of our plans for Sydney’s ongoing recovery,” Monica Barone, City of Sydney CEO said.

“The pandemic has cost the City of Sydney more than $149 million including funding towards grants for the community as well as further contributions towards fee waivers and rent relief.

“This is all part of our community recovery plan which continues to support Sydney’s economic and social revival.

“We want to encourage workers to return to offices and help businesses recover as Sydney reopens as a safe and inspiring place to live, work and visit.

“We have been planning for the economic recovery of the city and ensuring support for businesses as they reopen in sectors like hospitality, tourism and the creative industries. We are also working closely with other government agencies, industry and community groups to maximise this support as we reopen the city.”

The City of Sydney’s support includes:

$12 million to activate and enliven the City of Sydney area

Over the last 12 months the City of Sydney has approved $12 million in funding through various grants programs to enliven the city centre and surrounds. As restrictions progressively ease, more activations and events will take place across the city.

Highlights to come include:

  • Sticky Notes (7–10 Dec): Customs House Forecourt and the Circular Quay precinct will come alive with musical scores and live pop-up daily performances by Ensemble Offspring
  • Locals (11/12 Feb 2022): Hyde Park Barracks will host a community festival curated by Archie Rose to celebrate local bars, restaurants and producers from in and around Sydney
  • Baro Lolo Orkestra and the Gypsy Caravan Stage (February 2022): A celebration of Romani Gypsy music from around the globe to be held at Darling Harbour
  • Barangaroo Artisan Markets (26 February 2022): 50 market stalls, live music, ceramics, prints and more
  • The Rise of the Pub Gig (February 2022): For one-month, 25 venues across Sydney will host 125 local gigs featuring the best local artists and new, original music
  • Xstatic Wonderland (19 March 2022): a family friendly one-day festival in Belmore Park with live music, DJs, comedy and a Guinness World Record attempt to create the largest Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

In addition, the City of Sydney and NSW Government last year established a $20 million CBD revitalisation fund to boost the city centre economy and support businesses and will continue to work on this together.

City of Sydney-produced programs and events to support economic recovery

To help boost the city economy and support businesses, the City of Sydney has curated a program of roving entertainment over the summer months. The program features more than 200 roving performances throughout the city centre and across high streets in Redfern, Glebe, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Erskineville, Newtown and Kings Cross.

The City of Sydney kicked-off Christmas last Thursday with the lighting of the City’s decorations including the Martin Place Christmas tree. Ten additional Christmas trees have also been installed at Sydney Town Hall, Taylor Square and across local village centres.

Thousands of fairy lights hang above Pitt Street Mall and Martin Place and choirs will entertain shoppers in Martin Place and on George Street in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The City of Sydney is working with the NSW Government and other agencies, including the NSW Police Force, Transport for NSW, Port Authority for NSW, NSW Ambulance and NSW Health, to ensure a safe 2021 New Year’s Eve celebration.

The event will begin at 8.30pm with pylon projections and lighting effects followed by a Welcome to Country performance and family friendly fireworks display at 9pm. The world-renowned midnight display will feature pyrotechnic effects launched from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and barges on the harbour.

Sydney New Year’s Eve vantage points will be open this year. You may need to book a ticket to attend.

Visit for up to date information on where you can view the fireworks.

The City of Sydney will also encourage Sydneysiders and visitors to support local businesses on the night before heading to a vantage point to watch the fireworks.

The biggest Lunar New Year celebrations outside Asia will light up Sydney from 29 January to 13 February.

To celebrate the Year of the Tiger and draw people back into the city centre, the City of Sydney is producing a jam-packed program of events.

Illuminated lanterns representing the 12 animals of the zodiac will be on display along George Street and Haymarket and Chinatown will be home to a Lunar Lanes street party. A concert featuring 50 local community acts will bring Sydney Town Hall to life like never before, while the city streets will be transformed into an art gallery with banners featuring the work of local artists. Festival favourite, the Dragon Boat Races, will also return for a spectacular weekend of competition on Darling Harbour.

On weekends in January and February there will be one-off all-day street closures on six village high streets in Glebe, Kings Cross, Surry Hills, Redfern, Pyrmont and East Sydney. Locals can rediscover their neighbourhood while enjoying the roving entertainment.

Al fresco dining program and fee waivers

Following the successful launch of a free, fast-tracked application process for outdoor dining permits, all outdoor dining permit fees will continue to be waived until June 2022. This will make it easier for restaurants, cafes and bars to turn footpaths, roads and car spaces into outdoor dining spaces.

The City of Sydney recently approved more than 300 applications for alfresco dining from businesses across the city centre and high streets across the local government area.

Almost 60 per cent of the businesses taking advantage of the al fresco dining program have reported an increased turnover of up to 10 per cent, and 45 per cent are employing an additional two or more staff per week.

Since the start of the pandemic the City has assisted more than 5,000 businesses with fee waivers and rent foregone, and more than $3.2 million in footway dining fees has been waived.

New business and creative grants

The City of Sydney recently announced it would be spending up to $4 million in grants for businesses to reactivate the city centre. The new grants will be launched in February 2022 and will enable businesses and creatives to work together to develop new, unique attractions in the city centre and surrounds.

Similar to this year’s YCK Laneways Festival, these ‘micro precincts’ will help attract residents and workers to Sydney’s reemerging 24-hour economy.

Community emergency quick response grants

The City of Sydney continues to support community organisations in urgent need through the community emergency quick response grant program. Funding priorities include strengthening community cohesion to build the resilience of local communities, increasing digital inclusion, reducing food insecurity and improving access to information on rights and conditions of tenants.

Of the 26 grants approved to date, nine are for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations.

Food relief and community support

In July 2021, the City of Sydney invested $1 million to support food relief during the lockdown, as well as donations to OzHarvest, Foodbank and SecondBite to help address increasing demand. Since August, these donations have resulted in the delivery of more than 28,000 hampers and 13,800 meals to the local community.

From July to September, the City of Sydney’s Meals on Wheels service continued uninterrupted, delivering more than 12,800 meals to 232 local residents.

The City of Sydney also distributed 11,500 cloth masks to boarding houses, Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, community housing providers, Meals on Wheels clients and people experiencing homelessness.

The City of Sydney continues to work with the food relief network to respond to the ongoing demand across the local government area during the pandemic. Food relief hubs have been set up at City of Sydney community venues, libraries and community centres in Redfern, Surry Hills and Woolloomooloo.

As we head into the festive period, the City of Sydney will look to provide further funding for emergency food relief organisations. Additional assistance for those in need includes the provision of Christmas hampers, children’s gifts and essentials, and access to phones and data to keep people connected over Christmas.

The City of Sydney’s community hotline continues to link people to information on accommodation, food support, financial support, personal wellbeing, vaccinations and testing information in a range of community languages.

City-owned community facilities and services

During the lockdown, the focus of the City of Sydney’s work with the community was to support access to services such as testing, food relief and vaccinations. Six of the City of Sydney’s community centres and venues for hire were made available to NSW Health for Covid-19 testing and vaccination clinics.

Since mid-October, the City of Sydney’s pools, aquatic facilities, libraries, community centres and neighbourhood service centres have opened in line with the NSW Government’s recovery roadmap.

Major venues, outdoor spaces and community venues have also now begun taking bookings for hire.

Promotion during and post-pandemic

Throughout the pandemic, the City of Sydney has provided a range of communication materials to the community, including a guide for support during the pandemic, promotion of vaccination pop-up clinics targeted at vulnerable communities, support for NSW Police Covid-19 messaging in a range of community languages, and promotion of bilingual vaccination information sessions.

As part of the post-pandemic recovery planning, a campaign is now underway to encourage people back into the city to eat, drink and shop.

The City of Sydney is also working closely with Destination NSW to develop a local and domestic visitor marketing campaign for Sydney, with a focus on cultural offerings.

The City of Sydney’s research indicates the estimated cost to the local economy during the lockdown was $250 million a week, and around $3.5 billion over the entire period. Up to 40,000 jobs were also lost in the City of Sydney area, with almost half of these being women working part-time.

While business confidence declined during the lockdown, it increased 1.5 per cent in September as greater clarity about the roadmap out of lockdown was announced. Consumer confidence indices are also higher than average, and higher than at this time in 2020, suggesting strong demand in the lead up to Christmas, particularly in the services and hospitality sectors.

More on the community recovery plan is at:

View the City of Sydney’s latest quarterly activity report here.

For media enquiries or images, contact Elaine Kelly. Phone 0477 362 550 or email