Sunsuper Riverfire returned to light up Brisbane’s spring skies tonight, dazzling spectators throughout the city and many more watching live at home, in a fitting finale to Brisbane Festival 2021.

Brisbane Festival overcame the spectre of COVID-19 to successfully deliver a Brightly Brisbane program from 3 – 25 September 2021 that celebrated the city and shone a spotlight on its ability to attract and create world-class talent.

Hundreds of thousands of people revelled in the largest fireworks display Brisbane has seen in two years, lining multiple vantage points throughout the inner-city or viewing a live broadcast on Channel Nine with a specially curated playlist simulcast on Triple M.

Two tonnes of fireworks were launched off eight city building rooftops, two bridges and five barges on the Brisbane River spanning South Bank to Kangaroo Point and the Story Bridge.

More than 25 pyrotechnicians and 50 production staff helped Foti Fireworks deliver the shows.

Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Louise Bezzina said the free pyrotechnic spectacular was a joyous and uplifting end to the hugely successful 23-day event.

“Brisbane Festival is a celebration of everything we love about Brisbane so I was delighted that we could bring the city together – in person and in spirit – to enjoy Sunsuper Riverfire which is a wonderful community celebration,” Ms Bezzina said.

“The Festival’s Brightly Brisbane vision speaks to a sense of pride in our city; of celebrating our landmarks, lifestyle and those elements that make it unique.

“We are so grateful to have this bright, unifying celebration for Brisbane with a program that focused on positivity, resilience, hope and triumph over adversity.”

Brisbane Festival’s 2021 program featured 654 performances across 222 locations, including Street Serenades performances in each of Brisbane’s 190 suburbs.

The Festival commissioned 17 brand-new works, hosted 16 world premieres and programmed 16 First Nations-led productions.

More than 1,100 local artists and art workers were employed throughout the Festival, including 155 First Nations artists.

Brisbane Festival CEO Charlie Cush thanked the city for embracing the spectacular display and said its ongoing support was an exceptional show of trust and confidence in Brisbane Festival.

“A massive shout-out to Sunsuper for bringing tonight’s much-loved fireworks event to Brisbane for the 10th year in a row,” Mr Cush said.

“I am also thankful for our Festival team and 150-strong volunteer force as well as our many partners and sponsors for helping us deliver a safe, exciting and world-class event.”

“Brisbane Festival was the much-needed celebration residents and visitors were craving after a tumultuous 18 months and I am so pleased we could share with them a Brightly Brisbane Festival where more than 70 per cent of the program was free.”

Mr Cush also thanked Brisbane Festival’s 55 partners, 13 of whom were new in 2021, including Bank of Queensland, Northshore Brisbane, Eagle Street Pier, Hyundai and Gallus.

This year also saw two new Festival precincts emerge – BOQ Festival Garden at South Bank, incorporating the versatile South Bank Piazza, and Northshore Hamilton, home of Brisbane’s Art Boat, The Warehouse performance space and ENESS’s large-scale inflatable installations.

Brisbane Festival Board Chair Alison Smith praised the city’s generosity, revealing close to 200 donors had so far contributed to a record philanthropic income of $720,000 this year, up $160,000 on 2020’s previous high.

“Thanks to the ongoing support of our major shareholders, Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council, we have seen the city really connect with Louise Bezzina’s Brightly Brisbane vision, leaving no doubt that September is Brisbane Festival,” Ms Smith said.

“I extend my deepest gratitude also to our new donors and our loyal, returning philanthropists in driving Brisbane Festival’s Giving Program to new heights each year since its 2016 inception.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk congratulated Brisbane Festival for presenting three weeks of inspirational productions and arts experiences.

“The 2021 Festival has been a true testament to Queensland’s talent, creativity and resilience, employing local artists, showcasing Queensland arts companies and commissioning new works,” the Premier said.

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the Palaszczuk Government was a major supporter of the Brisbane Festival.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, the Palaszczuk Government has committed to more than $79 million worth of measures to stabilise and sustain the arts sector, including the dedicated $22.5 million Arts
and Cultural Recovery Package, and a further $7 million to support the live music sector,” Minister Enoch said.

“The arts, cultural and creative sectors are key to delivering our plan for economic recovery from COVID-19, each year injecting $8.5 billion into the state’s economy and supporting more than 92,000 jobs for Queenslanders.”

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner also congratulated the Brisbane Festival team for staging such a successful event.

“Having Brisbane Festival back in our city and throughout our suburbs was a great confidence booster for residents as it demonstrates how we are gradually returning to a more normal way of life where lockdowns and restrictions are a thing of the past,” Cr Schrinner said.

Brisbane Festival celebrated a roll call of smash-hit performances and shows in 2021, including a powerhouse concert from Kate Miller-Heidke, the many cruises of Brisbane’s Art Boat, the feelgood family hits Auntie’s Fiafia Night and Common People Dance Eisteddfod and audience hits Demolition and Ishmael proving sell-out sensations.

Also garnering high critical acclaim and audience rave reviews were Dancenorth’s RED, Skyfall by The Little Red Company and Dirty Laundry from party cabaret crew, Briefs Factory International.

Street Serenades again touched the hearts of family, friends and neighbours as its five concert stages spread joy deep into the suburbs of Brisbane.

One of the Festival’s most-anticipated works, the world premiere of Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe, adapted for the stage by Tim McGarry, set the box office alight.

With a season that was extended three times, Boy Swallows Universe became the biggest-selling drama in QPAC’s history, Queensland Theatre’s biggest-selling show in its 50-plus year history and its most technically ambitious and complex show to date.

Brisbane Festival returns to fill the city with art, music and joy from 2 – 24 September 2022.

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