People of the night / by Mario Mirabile

White Night Melbourne is a dusk-to-dawn cultural festival that, in its second year, attracted half a million people to the city centre for a feast of light shows, performances and artistic displays. It's been hailed as a great success - but call me a philistine if you like - I didn't particularly enjoy it once it got into full swing. It was virtually impossible to move around anything but the periphery or to see and enjoy anything other than the light shows projected onto buildings. Mind you, I've never been a fan of huge crowds at anything other than football matches, where at least the vast majority are seated with a common focus most of the time.

What I did enjoy was getting into the city early, having a bite to eat with friends and doing a bit of people watching.

Two hours before the scheduled start at 7:00 PM, the crowds were starting to build in Swanston street, but the elderly street portraitist didn't allow it to distract him as he studied his subject. Ernie was happy to have a chat as he sold his trinkets at the corner of Flinders Lane. The guitarist busking on the bridge gave a virtuoso performance with what looked to be not much more than a toy instrument. And the charming Leonie found time to smile for me as she sat across the communal table we shared at dinner.

Much better than seething crowds - for me at least.