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Despite social distancing, Canberra’s 2021 Enlighten Festival shone on

Canberra’s Enlighten Festival returned for 2021 with plenty of food, entertainment, and, of course, lights!

I attended the festival on March 5 for the fourth year in a row and, despite the COVID safety measures in place, the festival was just as enjoyable as every other year.

The festival came to an end on March 14. If you missed out, there’s always next year.


In previous years, to get food at Enlighten you would have to stand in a long line before entering the crowded ‘Noodle Markets.’ This year’s experience was surprisingly more pleasant with fewer lines and crowds, all thanks to social distancing.

To keep numbers at a safe level, the previous ‘Noodle Markets’ were separated into two sections: The BentSpoke Beer Garden and Enlighten Alley. Both were suitable for children; included live music; and had plenty of food options from loaded fries, burgers, noodles, Empanadas, Gelato, and more!

As a Covid precaution, you had to book a free ticket online for one of the two sessions (5:30 pm or 8:30 pm). I wasn’t organised and booked a ticket on the night, but I was lucky enough not to miss out.

I went to the Beer Garden, where I treated myself to some noodles and delicious doughnut balls (the doughnuts were my favourite, but I’m a dessert person).

Enlighten Illuminations

The stupendous lights across Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle precinct were the highlight of my night.

Comparing this year’s experience to the other years I attended the festival, I noticed a shortage of displays. In previous years Enlighten featured numerous interactive illuminations. This year, for obvious reasons (AKA COVID), displays that everyone touched wasn’t an option. I still think they could have made up for this with more non-interactive illuminations.

However, there was still plenty to see, with lights across trees; a fake fishpond; and large projections on the Australian Parliament House, National Portrait Gallery, National Library of Australia, Museum of Australian Democracy, National Gallery of Australia, and Questacon.

The illuminations aimed to “celebrate voices” — celebrating topics such as protest song, democracy, nostalgia for letter writing, and even how humans are similar to bees (spoiler: we are both at our best when we solve problems for all).

Despite COVID mixing things up this year, I still had a great time at Enlighten 2021 and can’t wait for next year. I wonder what 2022 will bring us? (As long as there’s still yummy food, I don’t mind.)

Written by Brooke Roff

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