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2008 Splendour in the Grass Music Festival

The dates and venue for the 2008 Splendour Festival have just been announced: 2 & 3 August at Belongil Fields, Byron Bay.

Here’s the press release;

OK music lovers. It’s time to dust off your dancing shoes and put these key dates in your calendar for the much-anticipated SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS event for 2008.

SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS will return this winter, Saturday August 2nd and Sunday August 3rd, to be staged in the beautiful sub tropics of Northern NSW’s Byron Bay.

And despite efforts to stage the forthcoming event at the proposed new site of North Byron Shire Parklands, organisers can confirm that SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS will for this year be held at Belongil Fields in Byron Bay, where it has been staged successfully for the past 7 years.

Now in its 8th year, SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS will continue to deliver performances by some of the finest music acts in Australia and around the world.

Tickets for the 2008 SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS will be on sale in May with first artists on the line-up to be announced late April. Watch this space for all this and more.

To keep up to date with festival information visit www.splendourinthegrass.com

For a wide choice of available accommodation visit our Splendour Accommodation Guide

I can’t wait!

Regional Chic and the Power of Place

When I first moved to Byron Bay, some city contemporaries thought I was copping out, dropping out or having a very premature midlife crisis.

In those days, it had not yet become hip to downscale, de-escalate and go back-to-nature, and Byron Bay had not yet reached its current apogee of fashionability for urban escapees.

At that time, happiness for masses of metropolites was, as Wallace Stevens wrote, "an acquisition."

Whereas by the fin de sicle, many of the middle-class (and mostly middle-aged) trendoids, feeling burnt out by working, working working in various Bladerunnerlands, were, as David Brooks wrote, "frantically shopping for the acoutrements of calm." They were fantasising about buying or "building a home where [they] can finally sit still and relax," a place where they could retreat without their ambition tagging along. Although we were all on word processors by the early 90s, business still was conducted primarily by phone and fax. Again, somewhat prematurely, I connected to email in 1985. It was lonely online then as there was virtually no one to talk to, and even the most cool urban entrepreneurial dudes, estranged as they were from the natural world, thought a website was the location of a spider home. Also, there was absolutely no biz cred or personal chic associated with living regionally or rurally.

None of these societal prejudices deterred me from relocation. For even at that time Byron was steadily acquiring its reputation -- as a unique, quality-of-life place to live. Visitors referred to its lush environs as "special", "powerful", "healing" "regenerative" (choose you own magical epithet), a place where people would go for a period of rest, recuperation and reassessment. In my social circles, there was plenty of talk about geomancy, earth magnetism and leylines. Harkening back to a dinner I once shared with two local friends, David and Peter, in a Lawson Street restaurant one balmy evening, I recall David saying he'd heard that a leyline ran through Mullumbimby, one of our neighbouring towns. Peter quipped laconically that a surefire business bet would be to open a new backbackers' hostel in Burringbar Street, Mullum, and publicise it as being built on a leyline.

I've written quite a bit about the power of place (in my book Love Letters from Mother Nature and on my website, www.shelleyneller.com). This subject always raises some incontestable truths (certain places on the planet do appear to affect people benefically) and some intriguing questions (how does this happen?)

For instance, one might reasonably ask: is the power of place inherently in the land, in the very rocks and crystals, dirt, dust and plant matter of a particular patch of the planet? Is there, as they say colloquially, something in the Byron water? And is this, apart from the blindingly obvious -- the gobsmacking subtropical beauty of the Shire, what subliminally attracts people to holiday or live here?

Or do people, gradually, collectively, over time, bring a certain energy and consciousness to the place they call home? And does this consciousness and energy, by some ethereal osmosis, flow out and bestow, imbue, permeate and positively influence the local landscape and atmosphere?

Or are both speculations true? And in which order? It's a chicken and egg conundrum.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru who taught the Beatles Transcendental Meditation, claims that if only 0.5 per cent of the world's population meditated, the influence of this would be so positively powerful it would create world peace. Hypothetically this theory makes me feel good, but when I consider that the local Byron population must boast one of the highest incidences of regular meditators in Australia, and when I observe the local political and social scenes with their entrenched and internicine warfare and machiavellian manoeuvres, I can only deduce that we residents are not chanting enough mantras to create local, let alone global peace and goodwill towards people, flora and fauna…

A while back, on one of my beloved beach walks, I ruminated some more over these notions. Trailing a dead branch in the soft Belongil sand behind me, I walked the shoreline pondering:have certain stories, songs, wisdoms, always existed a priori in the earth's landscape or are they the projections, the inventions, of peoples throughout the ages? My instinctive response is that the former is true, a belief which I discovered had been confirmed by James Cowan, an Australian poet and writer who has spent many years in the outback with tribal Aborigines. Cowan maintains that the landscape is imprinted with its own metaphysical data, waiting to be invoked. Even if we are wrong on this score, there are Eastern masters and Western theologians who maintain that projections during one's spiritual journey are essential, that without them the spiritual life (like love affairs) would not generate the heat to get started.

Unfortunately, we've now reached a stage where Byron Bay has become a victim of its own rapidly evolving mythology, its own juggernaut of good, albeit eyebrow-raising press. The rich biodiversity of local life which attracted human transplants here in the 70s, 80s and early 90s -- the residents' full-spectrum individuality (as in hippies, ferals, surfies, star-gazers, tarot readers, goths, vegetarians, musos, healers and organic gardeners, to name a few tribes), funky architecture (yuppies should read this as "unrenovated"), quirky local shops selling locally made wares -- all of these strands of original community life daily grow closer to marginalisation from the town centre or even to annihilation by rampant overdevelopment, escalating rents, trendy citification and homogenising, and an increasing I-want the city-in the country mindset exemplified by the following anecdote.

At the Byron Writers' Festival this year, a black-clad inner-city type declared publicly that one of his crucial criteria for upping stakes and moving to the Far North Coast was that the place should provide him with his requisite weekly hit of films at local cinemas. He appeared to be trying to cultivate local favour by praising the development of a brand new twin cinema in town. Lacking the sensitive antennae of a long-term local, he failed to notice a distinct ripple of audience disquiet around this remark. For a substantial portion of locals who've lived here for many years do not crave - and some actively resist -- this kind of development. So many of us did not come here for an addictive hit of air-conditioned cinemas, shopping malls and the like. We came for the surfing, the pristine environment, the old-fashionedness of the place; in short, we came for the Shire's blessed absence of city trappings.

To use an extended ecological metaphor, many of Byron Bay's unusual and variegated human species are rapidly becoming extinct or rare, due to habitat loss and displacement (See Byron Times Column 4, The Way We Were) by that rampant introduced species, the bobos* (bourgeois bohemians, as David Brooks calls them in his book Bobos in Paradise).

Once established, this alien species often dominates disturbed areas in and around the Bay (hinterland is never as appealing to despoil; the capital gain just can't match that of beachside real estate), and can destroy original habitat systems. Two particularly aggressive invaders - Sydney superannuatii and Yuppie materialis - pose the greatest threat to native species and in particular to long-established but fragile social systems. Regrettably, there is no local government management plan for this onslaught on native species.

Admittedly, defining "native" in human terms can be a real sticking point. Where does one draw the line? Equally contentious is the highly charged question of if and when to pull up the drawbridge? One can't, of course. It's a free country and, within the constraints of current local planning laws, you can move and build where you wish. Still, you might muse on the following paragraph from Salman Rushdie's novel The Moor's Last Sigh for its pertinence to the Bay.

"Have you noticed that Benengeli is defined by what it lacks - that unlike much of the region, certainly unlike the whole Costa, it is devoid of such excrescences as Coca-Loco nightclubs, coach parties on guided tours, burro-taxis, currency cambios ['fraid one of these recently sprouted in Byron Street], and vendors of straw sombreros? Our excellent Sargento, Salvador Medina, drives all such horrors away by administering nocturnal beatings, in the village's many dark alleys, to any entrepreneur who seeks to introduce them. Salvador Medina dislikes me intensely, by the way, as he dislikes all the town's newcomers, but like all well-settled immigrants - like the great majority of the Parasites - I applaud his policy of repulsing the new wave of invaders. Now that we're in, it's only right that somebody should slam the door shut behind us."

In a recent discussion paper produced by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Taking the devil out of development, Byron Shire Council ranked second, after Sydney's Warringah Council, as the most-complained-about council in Australia. It's no coincidence that Byron and Warringah are two coastal councils subject to immense pressure for development and redevelopment.

The ICAC paper stated :"One only has to read the local paper or attend a council planning committee in an area which is subject to development pressure, in order to understand what issues arise in the development assessment process, what emotions are inflamed and what can be at stake.

"For an applicant, a development consent may represent the key to an improved quality of life, a new business, an improved income or a significant profit.

"For residents within the locality of a proposed development, a consent may represent a loss of views or sunlight, overlooking of what was once private open space, more traffic and on-street parking, an increased potential for anti-social behaviour, more noise or an adverse impact on their streetscape…"

On another beachwalk, I caught myself humming, an aimless spill of jaunty notes that filled me up and at the same time made me feel lighter. I scanned the horizon for whales, for as my friend Rod Gibson, the Poet Lorikeet of the Bay, has written: "They sing to each other with eerie noises beneath the membrane of the sea." At one point I became aware that I was expectant, on the alert for something - movement, action, a flicker, a flash, a glimpse, a curiosity or distraction, a heart-expanding display, a defining moment. During my life's long interlude here I have savored the pep-ups, the ephemeral highs of such "trips" (one overcast afternoon on Tallow Beach I was thrilled to see a silver fish leap forward five times in high arcs; one evening, lying on the same sands, I saw a stunning succession of falling stars; one dawn a swarm of cobalt-colored bees blanketed the orange trumpet vine out back, and one sizzling spring high noon on deserted Tyagarah beach I was rivetted by a wallaby in the surf) and occasionally pine for more.

Yes, I told myself after this grateful inventory, forget the cinemas and the retail therapy! In addition to the satisfying pleasures of small-town living, it was the natural world with its marked contradistinction to a sprawling metropolis, which attracted thousands of "immigrants" like me to this place. If you'll indulge me in yet another nature analogy (this time an avian one, for I am a bird lover) -- leylines or no leylines, and twin cinemas notwithstanding, I see clearly in my crystal ball that Byron is in danger of becoming such a trussed-up goose that very soon it may not be able to lay any more golden eggs.

Oh well, I guess golden eggs are not to everyone's taste. And even if they are, there's always the air-conditioned comfort of the twin cinemas in which to guzzle a Coke, watch an American blockbuster and temporarily forget about your significant loss of small-town community amenity, identity and diversity; to turn a blind eye to what must incrementally but surely become the diminution of the power of this place.

Bangalow Music Festival 2008 : 29-31 August

An inspired paradise brimming with blissful music Described by legendary Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe as “the most exciting festival, outside a capital city…” the Bangalow Music Festival combines world-class musicians with captivating programming, delicious food and a festive atmosphere all surrounded by the sub-tropical beauty of the heritage township of Bangalow, NSW.

Opening on Friday 29 August and running through until Sunday 31 August, the program for the Festival comprises a colourful and dramatic range of musical styles, from renaissance song, through the delights of Haydn, Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert, to the drama and electricity of Hartmann and contemporary Australian music by Brett Dean, James Ledger (Southern Cross Soloists’ Composer in Focus for 2008) and Gerard Brophy. The Festival welcomes several top performers making their debut at Bangalow this year, including Ian Munro, piano; Graeme Jennings, violin; Julian Smiles, cello; Kees Boersma, double bass; and young pianist, Denny Liu, from New Zealand.

Also performing at the Festival for the first time will be Southern Cross Soloists2, an initiative of Southern Cross Soloists and the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. Students of the same instrumentation as Southern Cross Soloists are auditioned to take part in this mentoring program, creating a ‘mini-version’ of the existing music ensemble, with the addition of a flautist. Favourite Bangalow guests returning to the stage this year include guitarist Slava Grigoryan, the renowned Grainger Quartet, violist Patricia Pollett, the Queensland Choir and members of the Bangalow Festival Chamber Orchestra.

BANGALOW MUSIC FESTIVAL 2008 Friday 29 to Sunday 31 August

Concert Venues: Concerts 1 to 8: A&I Hall, Station Street, Bangalow, NSW, Concert 9: St Kevin’s Church, Deacon Street, Bangalow, NSW - Seating is limited to 300.

Tickets range from $45 (single ticket) to $260 (single nine-concert subscription).

The Byron Underwater Festival 2008 – sun, fun & record crowds

The 2nd Byron Underwater Festival was a massive success. Sell out events and activities, glorious weather and calm seas made this an event to remember for everyone.

Almost 60 people from all over Australia came to participate in the annual underwater photo and video shootout competition, making it the biggest event of this kind in the whole Australasia region. Over 20,000 dollars worth of prizes including cameras, underwater housings, dive gear and a dive trip for two to Papua New Guinea were handed over to winning participants in 7 categories. Biggest winner was Ballina resident Mark Gray who scored both first prize in the SLR camera category as well as the Underwater Portfolio. Two local school groups went out with sponsor cameras to take underwater photos for the first time and the winning students walked away with an underwater photography course, diving vouchers and books. The Marine Visions open medium art competition held as part of the Underwater Festival in conjunction with Retrospect Galleries saw over 100 entries including sculptures, photographs and some amazing fine art.

Over 300 people attended the launch event on Friday and it was pushing room only to get close to the works. Winner of the fine art prize was Paul Colby with his work titled “Marine Playground”. Some works can still be seen at Retrospect Galleries this week and will remain on display on the Underwater Festival website – underwaterfestival.com.au Part of this year’s Byron Underwater Festival was also the Australian premiere screening of the anti-JAWS documentary “Sharkwater” by Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart.

The screening was held as a fund raiser for “Australian Seabird Rescue” in Ballina and organised in collaboration with the BayFM “Generator” program at Byron Cinemas biggest screen on Saturday night. The night was a sell-out and the personal introduction to the film by world renowned underwater cinematographer David Hannan made the screening a huge success. Certainly a film everybody should go and watch when it get released Australia wide on May 15. Other highlights of the festival were the underwater photography clinics by Mathieu Meur, who flew in for this festival all the way from Singapore. His clinics were sold out quickly and participants were putting their new learned skills to test immediately. Mathieu who authored 3 books on digital underwater photography promised to be back next year for more workshops.

Last years guest of honour, Australia’s own underwater pioneer Neville Coleman was back this year to launch his new book the “Nudibranchs Encyclopedia of Asia and Indo-Pacific”. Neville is the author of over 60 books and well known for his passion for the underwater world and the small and unusual critters it contains. Listening to him talk about his many decades of exploration is an inspiration and for those who managed to meet him during the festival or hear his radio interview on BayFM on Friday will realise what an amazing person he is.

The Byron Underwater Festival is an annual event and not just for divers. Aimed at everyone wanting to experience our marine environment for themselves it encourages all to participate – whether you want to learn more about it, dive it, snorkel it, kayak it … or even paint it. Only one year to go to the next one …

2008 Byron Bay Festival & Event Season

May through August each year sees Byron Bay host a wide variety of events & festivals – something for everybody.

30 April – 4 May : Byron Underwater Festival, visit www.underwaterfestival.com.au.

4 May : Winter Whales Ocean Classic, 2.2km Ocean Swim.

10 May : Byron Bay Triathlon, Olympic Distance Triathlon.

May 24 – June 1 : FEHVA, The festival for art lovers and artists.

25-27 July : Byron Bay Writers Festival, visit www.byronbaywritersfestival.com.au.

2 & 3 August : Splendour in the Grass, tickets on sale in May, visit www.splendourinthegrass.com.

So if you’re interested in the ocean, fitness, art &/or music – and looking for an excuse to visit Byron this winter, I suggest you start planning now.

2008 Winter Whales Ocean Classic – Byron Bay

This year is the 20th year for the Winter Whales Ocean Classic and the event will include the 2.2km Wategoes to Main Beach swim as well as ‘the dash for cash’ (500 m sprint) and the new ‘Mini Classic’ (800 m).

Date: First Sunday in May – 4 May 2008

Time: 10:00 am start

Location: Byron Bay Surf Club, Main Beach race starts from Wategoes

Contact: Chris Lowry aquadoctor@gmail.com

Birds, bugs and butterflies at third Brunswick Valley Nature Festival

The 2008 Brunswick Valley Nature Festival will be all about conserving biodiversity in our unique natural environment. The theme “Birds, bugs and butterflies” will highlight the threat of climate change to the region’s biodiversity as increasing numbers of species face extinction, and just what that means for our future.

The Festival will be at the Shearwater Steiner School at Mullumbimby on Sunday 1st June, 2008. You can read more about the Festival at www.brunswickvalleylandcare.org.au The day will include workshops and presentations, bird walks, and lots of hands-on and fun activities for everyone.

Put the date in your calendar now. Volunteers are needed to assist with the organisation and to help out on the day – please offer your services if there is anything you would like to do to make the Festival a success. Volunteers are invited to call Adrian on 6685 1287 or email to brunsvalley@optusnet.com.au Posted by Adrian Begg, Brunswick Valley Landcare.

Byron Bay New Year’s Eve 2007 – Safe Community Event

The Byron Bay Safety Committee has again been formulating the program for a safe community event for this years new years eve in Byron Bay.

With the success of recent years low key, community based, alcohol free, new year event, the same formula is planned for this year to ensure a safe night. said Chair of the committee, Mayor Jan Barham. Council has again resolved to provide a safe environment by the use of alcohol prohibition on the streets and parks in both Byron Bay and Brunswick. The format for NYE in Byron Bay will proceed as it was last year, focusing the event on the beachfront reserves and minimise the impact on local businesses. The committee is also calling for stall holders to make an expression of interest to have food and craft stalls on the night and an opportunity for community groups to have free stalls to showcase their work and activities. Details of how to apply are available on Councils website and via advertisements The event will commence at 3pm with children's activities and market stalls at the beach front.

The popular parade will feature again and there is a request to the community to join in by starting to prepare costumes and group presentations This year the support of Byron United is welcomed and there is a strong spirit of cooperation to provide for a safe, community friendly NYE in Byron Bay. Licensed venues in Byron Bay will again provide exciting events but these are ticketed and size limited, so those wanting to celebrate the night will need to get in quick to ensure they get a ticket.

Many restaurants in town will also be open and also require booking said Cr Barham. The committee thanks those local performers who have offered their talents for the night and buskers are invited to apply to perform on the night.

The Safety Committee also appreciates the generous donations from businesses for prizes for the parade and is hoping that there may be other support offered to assist in the provision of necessary infrastructure for the night. If you are still looking for accommodation over New Years Eve, visit our Still Available for NYE Accommodation Guide.

Living In The Byron Bubble

It is possible to fall as passionately in love with a place as with a person.

Both types of love affairs follow the same psychological lines of unfoldment. You set eyes on the intended. Sparks fly. Before you can say "Jack (or Jill) Robinson" or "Belongil Beach", you're smitten by the love object, who appears, initially to fulfill all your wildest dreams.

You flirt, you put your toe, so to speak, in the water, you grow superficially acquainted; then, more often than not, you plunge rapidly into what our culture mistakenly identifies as intimacy. That is to say, you are in bed together - literally or metaphorically, or, if you're lucky, both. You don't want to be anywhere else. He/she/this place is your heartland. It all becomes very intense. It begins to feel like - let me surface for a deep breath here - This is It! You hang out together, superglued at the hip by the seductive power of pure potential. You make plans, you fantasise about how perfect the future is going to be. A classic case of pure projection, as the shrinks would say.

They also say that with person-to-person love affairs it takes about two months for the initial limerance, that delectable word and state, to wear off. With locations, special place with which you have fallen truly, madly, deeply in love, it can take years for the romance to wear thin, for the honeymoon to be over. And then it's time to make a decision. Do you want to bail out, seek a new love interest and start the courtship phase all over again - and that may well be an appropriate course of action - or do you want to recommit yourself to your loved one and move on to a deeper, restructured phase of relating?

For several months after I moved from Bondi Beach to Byron Bay, Australia's most easterly, surf's up ecotopia, I had to keep pinching myself to make sure this radical relocation was for real. In the lee of the Cape one diamond day, I sat down and wrote a long euphoric, gratitude list, the core components of which, on reviewing, still hold true:

  • Byron is a viridescent, sub-tropical jewel in the continent's bellybutton.
  • Byron is not just a ravishing physical environment, it is a state of mind. It occupies an affectionate place in the national psyche, in the Australian Dream, and rightly so, for it is a place which affords you the time and (microsocietal) permission to find out who you are, apart from what you do.
  • Byron is one of the last bastions of the invididual, or as one local wit once put it: "the truth is out there - and so are we."

Exquisite jewels, when held in a certain light, however, may exhibit the odd dark facet. What the visiting apostles of trendiness can't perceive when they rock in, in the four-wheel drives, with their rose-colored glasses, their fingers drumming impatient tattoos on café tables all over town ("the service is so slow," they gripe) is that living here is an outward-bound course for the spirit, a post-graduate degree in personal boundary setting. As they say in New Age-speak, whatever or whoever your issues, you'll get plenty of chances to confront them in a small place like this. Ain't no metropolitan anonymity 'round here, folks. Your "stuff," as they used to call it in 80s self-awareness seminars, will be in your face often - at the post office and the weekends markets, in the library and the yoga classes, on the beaches…

You can pick the new residents because they rave about how wonderful it is to walk down Jonson Street and say hello to so many people they know; because they're more interested in finding out how you make your money than who you sleep with and because they've just rented a post office box for two months and announced smugly: "Yeah, I'm a local."

The longer they live here, the more they are likely to develop a different worldview. For example, I have stumbled on a new definition of forgiveness. If you spot someone you know, but now wish you didn't, in the soap powder aisle at Woolworths, that inevitable epicentre of desirable and undesirable social collisions, and you feel the urgent need to turn your trolley around, slip on your dark glasses and zoom off in the opposite direction, you clearly haven't forgiven them. If there is a theme song for the Days of Our Byron Lives, two strong flipside contenders would have to be How Sweet It Is and Nowhere To Run (Nowhere to Hide).

Despite this goldfishbowl existence, for almost seven years I barely stepped foot outside the Shire. For certain goods and services unobtainable in the Bay, I would occasionally cruise over to Ballina or to Lismore, where the streets are filled with folk who look like extras from a Fellini film. Going to the Gold Coast gave me a headache, literally. On the intermittent occasions I went to Sydney, I got sick. As for Queensland, I'd done my time there while growing up and now only crossed the border into the Deep North to attend funerals.

My Sydney friends envied my idyllic incarceration, turning up once or twice a year for R & R from their life-leaching corporate schedules.

You can grow quite cocooned and self-satisfied living in the Byron Bubble. Which I discovered one year when I drove to Hervey Bay to join some friends on a week-long whale-watching expedition. Travelling up with a Byron acquaintance and her small son, we stopped for a tea break at a roadhouse outside Bundaberg. After the tea, we walked back to my old Corona, parked in the vast bitumed car park. As we drew alongside my car, we saw a big, bearded man who looked as if he customarily ate four cows for breakfast, standing with his hands on his substantial hips, inspecting the stickers on the rear window. One of these said: "The goddess is alive. Magic is afoot."

"Which wunna-yous'd be the goddess?" he challenged in a surly voice, a real ton-of-fun kind of guy. Before we had a chance to reply, he turned his back, folded his massive frame into his Queensland-registered, mud-spattered ute and roared off.

Aside from anything else, I've grown accustomed to and fond of the local semiotics. In Sydney, for example, the shops feature large signs warning in capital letters, that shoplifters will be prosecuted. In Byron, smaller signs in calligraphy chide the customers that "Stealing is Bad Karma." In Byron "Magic Happens" is the ubiquitous bumper sticker which signifies a belief in the benevolence of the local atmosphere. In Sydney, it's the name of a singles club for thirtysomethings.

The nature of personal reality shifts as constantly and subtly as the sands on Tallow Beach. Examining the shape of my current dunes of desire, I'm still glad I swapped a sizeable salary and the crowded isolation of Cement City, for a reordered set of life priorities, for soul-salving scenery and treasured friendships, for a strong sense of community, albeit one with a measure of small-mindedness.

According to one local real estate agent, writers are now featuring strongly among his property buyers. Byron has become what David Brooks calls a "latte town" and now I wonder if we're turning into an Antipodean version of L.A. as an industry town, but instead of every second waiter or taxi driver or tarot card reader being an aspiring actor, ours are writers. Well, there could be worse demographics, I reckon.

Cappuccinos, internet cafes, international change bureaus and writers notwithstanding, Byron is still a very small town.

Nevertheless, I've discovered it is possible to deepen in one's affections for the beloved - warts (Christmas tourist plagues, overdevelopment, galloping gossip) and all.

Life in Byron has given me the time, that luxury commodity which trades at a premium in the city, and the mindset to deconstruct and reinvent myself, to feather my own seaside nest. And it was only a few years ago, the seventh year of the proverbial itch, when I realised that, having made my own cosy green bed, I wasn't obliged to lie in it all the time.

I found myself ogling travel brochures and considering short-term contract jobs abroad. I found myself spending a few seasons on Sydney's northern beaches. One vitreous autumn afternoon, while walking on Palm Beach, I ran into a film producer I'd worked with during the 80s. This man, a veteran surfer, had lived at Cooper's Shoot in the 70s and he knew the Shire well.

After we exchanged pleasantries, he challenged me with: "I thought you went to live in Byron Bay?"

"I did," I replied, "but that was 1991 and I'm a big girl now. I'm allowed to come out sometimes and play in your back yard."

Moments later he told me about a recent trip he'd made to London. He spoke of how much he had enjoyed the change of scene, the experience of mixing with, as he called it, "a different strata of society."

"Exactly!" I concurred, hoping to reiterate my point about pluralism.

But his eyes grew glassy. My point had not punctuated his bubble of belief in Byron as the ultimate, one-way destination, as a kind of Hotel California of the Far North Coast - you know: you can check out, but you can never leave.

After the film producer and I said farewell, I walked north towards the Palm Beach lighthouse. Like Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings I found myself thinking warm-fuzzy, hobbit-like thought of home. As Frodo said before he set out on his 1000-page adventure: "There have been times when I thought the [Shire] inhabitants too stupid or dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don't feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable. I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again."

5 Tips for Booking Your Byron Bay Blues Festival Accommodation

If you’re planning to come to the Byron Bay Blues Festival for the first time – or even if you’ve been before, there are a few things you should keep in mind as you’re looking for your ideal place to stay. Before we get to the ‘tips’, the thing to remember is that Byron Bay is a small town – the larger annual festivals do attract more people than the town can accommodate… particularly when you take into account that the festival’s artists and crew are also staying here. Plus many people who come every year – re-book the same place each year. Here are my 5 tips to booking accommodation for the Blues Festival;

1. People : You need to know how many people are staying with you. Accommodation in Byron is very strict on maximum numbers… sneaking a few extra friends in to sleep on the floor won’t be tolerated and could result in loss of bond &/or eviction. There are places to stay that sleep one to a limited number of places that sleep up to 10 people. Most places have 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms.

2. Duration : It’s a five day festival, most of the accommodation has a minimum stay of 5 or 7 nights. There are a few properties with 3 or less minimum night stay – if you can only come for a few nights, grab one of these ASAP.

3. Location : For 2008, the Festival has moved back to Belongil Fields – which is located on Ewingsdale Rd (the road you take from the highway into Byron Bay) about 2.5 km from the centre of town. Shirley St and Belongil offer a 2-3 km walk to and from the festival, all of Byron Bay is serviced by shuttle buses, with accommodation in the hinterland and nearby villages offering their own charms.

4. Price : The Easter long weekend is just about the most expensive time of year to stay in Byron Bay. As a rule of thumb the closer to the festival or Beach and the shorter you stay – the more expensive it will be. In Byron Bay expect to pay $75-$125 per person per night – more for luxury, less if you stay out of town.

5. How to Book : The sooner you start the wider choice you’ll have. You will have to secure your booking with a deposit (often 50%), and you may loose it for a late cancellation.

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