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'DIY Vivid': Sydney's cancelled light festival revived via online initiative

After the annual Vivid Festival was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the strict lockdown rules that followed, a Sydneysider has encouraged Aussies to create their own light displays at home.

James ‘Breko’ Brechney, a social media and community activist created ‘DIY Vivid’ to encourage the community to create their own light shows and share it on social media.

“I was chatting to a few people about the fun stuff we could do while in iso.”

“It [DIY Vivid] runs for 14 days, the same time Sydney Vivid was going to be, that’s the concept,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

James 'Breko' Brechney with friends. Photo: James Breko/Instagram.
James 'Breko' Brechney with friends. Photo: James Breko/Instagram.

“We are asking people to put Christmas lights on their balconies, decorate them, maybe make a light installation.”

Mr Brechney is known for his MC and producing work, but he is best known for hosting ‘Brecko’s Trivia’ at popular Sydney pubs.

“It was very scary for me, I’m a trivia host.”

“Once the pubs got put on hold, everything got cancelled very quickly,” he said.

“There were a couple of very scary weeks not knowing whether I’ll be on the Centrelink line or not.”

While in isolation, Mr Brechney came up with the idea of ‘DIY VIVID’ with a mate. As a former Director of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras between 2014 to 2017, and Founder of the worldwide DIY Rainbow movement in 2013, hosting ‘DIY Vivid’ this year was a no brainer for the seasoned community activist.

“I was unemployed for a bit of a moment there, so I was thinking ok, dust yourself off and do something fun,”

“I was thinking, ‘what can we do?’ What’s going to give me a purpose?”

“Vivid has been cancelled, we could do a ‘Do-It-Yourself Vivid,’ this can be really, really cool,” he said.

Mr Brechney has revealed that he has been “blown away” by the response to what was initially, “a fun thing to do while in iso” and says he is looking forward to seeing what happens over the next two weeks.

James Breko chalking-up a DIY Rainbow behind his home. Photo: James Breko/DIY Rainbow Facebook.
James Breko chalking-up a DIY Rainbow behind his home. Photo: James Breko/DIY Rainbow Facebook.

“Whenever you do something like this, you don’t really know what’s going to happen, or, how it’s going to go.”

“All of a sudden we’re getting images from people’s homes, as it was all coming through it has been amazing,” he said.

“It’s really nice to hear from everyone in the private messages and public messages, it’s been really rewarding.”

Waiting for pub entertainment to return

While Mr Brechney is looking forward to going back to work as restrictions steadily relax, he has adapted and is making the most of the digital opportunities because there still isn’t any work available for pub hosts or live performers.

“Super looking forward to when it’s all back open.”

“Where you can have a hundred people at a venue, and when it is financially viable to hold a trivia night, or a drag show, or cabaret show,” he said.

“So our entertainment nightlife industry can get a chance to earn a decent living.”

For now, Mr Brechney is hosting Trivia, Music Bingo, and other fun games for work teams based at home, online, via Zoom video conferencing.

Kicking off ‘DIY Vivid’ this week has been “bittersweet” for Mr Brechney who attends the official Vivid Sydney Light Festival every year with friends.

“Over 50 friends and I would go on a cruise on the first night of Vivid.”

“We’ve been doing that for five years, it was nice that we did something [this year] and people are sharing all their photos,” he said.

“You’ve got to make do with what you’ve got, and make those lemons into lit-up-lemonades!”

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