Kathy Burns talks Tropical Light and Darwin’s Wet Season wonders

As amazing as it is, Tropical Light, the Top End’s newest evening spectacular, is just the icing on the cake. Indeed, the lightning displays during Darwin’s Wet Season truly behold, says Kathy Burns, Director of Arts & Culture NT Major Events.

“Some of these are silent. You get this beautiful dance across the sky in the distancea lot of Darwin locals say it’s their favourite time of year,” says Kathy.

The ocean roars, dry spaces transform and wildlife prospers amid floral blooms but it’s a wonder few overlanders experience. A fact the Territorian Government intends to change.

 lightning bolt dances across the night skies over Darwin.<br /><br />From the sparkling harbour and WWII history to the city's Asian-influenced food and tropical outdoor lifestyle, Darwin is an adventurer's paradise.


“For travellers, there’s this myth that Darwin is uninhabitable in The Wet. 

“The main difference is that it is hot and humid, but we have some fabulous [comfortable, air-conditioned] public spaces and you get these light showers that just cools everything down. 

“There’s an abundance of mango [this time of year]; you can get just about anything in mango,” says Kathy.

This year, a glorious 2.5km city-wide Tropical Light walking trail will celebrate this life-giving season. Here, local artists will illuminate Darwin’s fabulous public spaces after dark, alongside eight magnificent pieces by acclaimed creative Bruce Munro, behind Uluru’s Field of Light.

Tropical Light - Darwin marvel


To realise the summertime works, locals, retailers and artists have shifted their perspectives. It’s a project of firsts, says Kathy, even for the headlining artist. 

“Bruno Munro has never designed spaces spanning entire city before,” says Kathy.

The artist visited the city last October to author his vision, understand its history and account for Darwin’s environmental conditions. 

“The installations must be strong and easy to disassemble to withstand the weather.” 

And they have to be protected around the clock—manned by proud locals serving as volunteers, whose hours are sponsored by donors contributing to youth cancer support charity CanTeen

To enrich traveller experiences, Kathy engaged ambassadors representing families, people over 45, art enthusiasts, those who identify as indigenous or live with a disability. 

“Locals who know where to go,” says Kathy.



Solar-lit jellyfish, constructed from recycled bottles along Darwin’s Sky Bridge will amaze. The work, entitled Bloom, is a triumph in scale for local artist and market-stall favourite Bev Garside.

“Her whole confidence has grown,” says Kathy. “It’s about developing community capacity.”

Indeed, local musicians and graphic designers comprised creative crews to tackle city-wide challenges, create sound-scapes and produce way-finding. 

“Our artists are collaborating, which is important, particularly in [remote] Darwin. 

“People are beginning to understand that you don’t need to do this alone,” says Kathy.

Even for established artist Paul Arnold, responsible for Sky Walk, Tropical Light shifted his direction.

“He is now moving into textiles,” Kathy explains.



Buy in from tourism operators during The Wet is imperative for the project’s success. 

“It has been a huge. I’ve had to ask them: ‘Look, I need you to take a bit of a risk’. They usually rely on The Dry to see them through the year.”

But the gamble is already paying off with bookings are coming in. 

“When you go on to the Tropical Light booking page, you’ll see some stand-out attractions,” says Kathy.  “You’ll find everything from entry level experiences like the walking sites augmented by the audio commentary app to packaged chartered flights with a dinner and a dessert wine.”

Local restaurants are getting on board, too, with wonderful window displays and tropical summer-themed menus that tie into the exhibition.



The project’s ticking along beautifully, but there’s plenty ahead of the launch when it goes live November 1.

When we spoke Kathy earlier this month, the complementary audio app was undergoing testing and the artists were gearing up to erect their pieces. Not to mention the growing volunteer and sponsorship army. And with Bruce’s arrival weeks away, a media storm awaits. 

But the vibe’s electric. Tropical Light’s signalling big things.

Kathy Burns coordinated local efforts supporting Darwin's Wet Season wonder Tropical Exhibition. All round champion. I think she should be celebrated