A neon winter wonderland for Smiths Lane

Banjo Park at Smiths Lane, Clyde North during a previous neon event By Carla O'Brien. Picture: SUPPLIED.

By Ethan Benedicto

Banjo Park in Clyde North is lighting up during this cold season, looking to embrace the winter solstice with a neon wonderland.

The event is planned to be held on Friday 21 June, and will run from 5pm to 8pm at the centre of Smiths Lane; with live music and entertainment, as well as treats for the first 300 attendees.

However, Carla O’Brien, a Melbourne-based artist with a speciality on neon displays, says that this event is going to be unlike anything the park has done before.

“We’ve got a neon winter wonderland, a full winter playground of fun and in celebration of the winter solstice,” Ms O’Brien said.

Trying her best not to spoil the experience, a little sneak peek means that her and her team are “taking up the whole park”.

“There are so many pieces that we’ve got, about 20 installations for people to interact with.

“A community-based event like this is bringing all types of people, young and old, together to just have a good time and a really fun family experience as well,” she said.

Natalie, a barista at the neighbouring Smiths Social cafe said that events like these are a boon for growing areas and communities such as Smiths Lane.

“It sounds like it’ll be great for the kids and all the young families, and of course, you can go support local artists by going,” she said.

A father, who wished to remain anonymous, said that anything that “brings the community together is always good”.

With a wife and three kids, the family has been in Smiths Lane for just over two years, and in that short amount of time observed the area grow exponentially.

“They did something like this some time ago as well, and it was really good, a lot of people came and you could sort of feel the togetherness if that makes sense.

“My kids liked lights, other kids liked the lights, it brings the people out to mingle and it’s free, what more could you ask for?” he said.

For Ms O’Brien, working towards exhibitions like this is nothing out of the ordinary, with multiple projects displayed throughout Melbourne CBD, with her most iconic including the Sleigh My Name festive lettering, the MANIAX entrance signage and neon archways in Perth and Ballarat, to name a few.

However, its magic never fades, and while it would be Banjo Park’s second year of being lit up in neon, Ms O’Brien “gets incredible joy from my work because people absolutely love it”.

“There are so many moments that people have with the artworks, but first of all, when they drive [there] and they pull up, or they start the walk into where the installation is, they can see it from afar and are just mesmerised.

“[People] are used to seeing neon signs from a distance or up high, this is neon down to where you are on the ground, and it’s taking everyday objects and animals and turning it into neon,” she said.

The novelty in the work, according to Ms O’Brien is that although the concept of neon itself is nothing new, it’s the closeness of her pieces that draw crowds in; being able to blend into the environment, as well as the person interacting is a key part of her art.

“It’s unexpected, so when people see it for the first time, they have an amazing response to it; so to see everyone’s eyes light up, and the joy that they get from it is amazing.

“The next part of the joy is when you see people taking photos, because works are interactive [and] that’s the whole point of it – it’s interactive light art that people can have an experience with,” Ms O’Brien said.

The pieces themselves are temporary, and being battery-operated allows Ms O’Brien and her team to bring the pieces in the afternoon, have them displayed and then pack them up once the event finishes.

“You know, it’s hard to get people to come out of their house at nighttime where it’s warm but cold outside; but what if you’ve got something like this where it just warms your heart from the inside?” Ms O’Brien said.

While the event is free, bookings are essential and tickets can be accessed through www.eventbrite.com.au/e/one-night-in-neon-winter-solstice-tickets-910992672607?j=1001934&sfmc_sub=326305053&l=166_HTML&u=138882002&mid=100021793&jb=1&utm_source=SFMC&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=SmithsLane_OneNIghtInNeon_VIC_MPC_COMMDEV_20230809—20230906_142447—_112836—20240131_–&utm_term=&utm_content=