How the Hippie Trail Became a Culture Crawl
FORGET tie dye and psychedelia. Byron Bay and surrounds have been reinvented as a mecca for classy artisans and quirky festivals.
The region along the Legendary Pacific Coast and the Byron Bay hinterland holds a special place in the national cultural landscape. A generation ago the warm climate, evocative rainforests and stunning beaches drew the counterculture movement north.
Now the scenery has combined with the social history to inspire a new generation of artists and creative types to make their homes and studios here. Visitors come not just to bask on the beaches but to enjoy a part of Australia with a unique cultural identity.
The rich cultural life of the region is nurtured through Arts Northern Rivers, the peak support body for promoting arts and culture in the region. CEO Peter Wood told ArtsHub, ‘Our key focus is supporting local artists and creative businesses by providing core services like promotion, marketing and advocacy. We also work with specific sectors such as the music and visual arts sectors.’To celebrate the region’s cultural community, Arts Northern Rivers has initiated If These Halls Could Talk, a project that both acknowledges the artistic achievements of the region and provides a new cultural outlet. ‘We have targeted a local hall in each of our seven local government areas and have put a community engagement coordinator and a renowned artistic team in each hall to work with the local community on celebrating these halls and the role they play in our communities,’ said Wood.
There is plenty to celebrate. The region is home to a host of cultural activities, from theatre and sculpture to Highland dancing and surfing films.
If you’re feeling acrobatic, visit Circus Arts in Byron Bay. It offers circus classes for kids, toddlers and mums, as well as trapeze and aerial classes for adults. Further inland, the Bangalow Theatre Company holds popular kids’ classes and performances in the historic Bangalow Hall.
Northern Rivers Performing Arts (NORPA) is a theatre company in Lismore, providing both original productions and a forum for touring acts. The company has a program for developing and nurturing new works which has made it one of the few national known regional theatre companies.
From glassblowers and cartoonists to perfume-makers and sculptors, Byron Bay and the surrounding regions are home to some of Australia’s most renowned artists. You can see many artisans along the Byron Arts Trail, a hive of activity with artist’s studios, galleries and workshops.
The Grafton Regional Gallery in Clarence Valley holds a sizable collection of regional, national and international art plus a diverse program of events, public programs and prizes. The Gallery is also behind the prestigious JADA award, a major acquisitive prize for Australian drawings.
Maclean is home to Kingstudio, a gallery and bed and breakfast run by local artists Julie McKenzie and Malcolm King. The gallery hosts a variety of workshops and events, including printmaking classes and residency programs.
Settled between Nimbin and Byron Bay, Bangalow is a haven for those seeking an alternative way of life. The renowned markets are held on the fourth Sunday of every month and are a gathering of locals, artists, bakers, therapists and farmers.
And while you’re in Bangalow, be sure to take a wander along the historic main street. Filled with gourmet stores, galleries and cafes, the town’s historic buildings have been restored to their former style, complete with wide verandas for al fresco dining.