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This Is Northern New South Wales

Town Rivalry – living in a lighthouse-shaped shadow

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I didn’t really think about town rivalry until I moved to the place that’s the underdog.

Always being the lover of the underdog, I thought it’s about time I defend the town that many see as derelict, subject to floods, inland and downright not worth a forty-five minute drive (especially when you are heading in the scariest reading on the compass: west). I am talking of a long-going town rivalry comparable to Shelbyville and Springfield: between one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations, the hipster magnet Byron Bay and Lismore (also known as south-west Byron Bay hinterland, the wok and Lisvegas).

Some Byronians dare not venture (and have never) down into the depths of the Northern Rivers; some come only for higher education purposes and to point and laugh at our dated clothing and somewhat underrated lifestyle. I once questioned a life-long Byron dweller about why they think Lismore is stinkin’ and no good, she said it was the aesthetics of the town; simply that Byron was pretty and Lismore was not. And there’s no beach. Others say they don’t feel safe in Lismore (although the percentage of assault is similar to Byron Bay according to recent crime reports). Maybe I am blinded by love but what others see as ugly or scary, to me make the town have more character and even appear even more beautiful. In fact, I am not sure if I’ve ever seen such a mixed bag of awesome in a regional town. Plus, I saw Simon Baker at a café here once; he knows we’re alright (or thinks no one has a TV here so they mightn’t know who he is).

Most well travelled people I know say Berlin is their favourite city in the world. I asked someone who lived there what it was like, why does everyone think it is so great? His answers sounded like a description of Lismore: inland, full of queers, art, talented folk, restaurants with world-class chefs, fresh produce and collectors markets, live jazz and people from all parts of the globe. The misfits gather and piece together perfectly; you and your flaws are welcome. The paint is chipped on the old houses with stilts, but no one really minds.

Like Berlin, it probably became this way because it’s a city with a chip on its shoulder – and Lismore’s own chip is the size of the Cape Byron lighthouse. It’s almost like the town will use Byron Bay for their potential visitors because it sometimes provides the dregs of a random tourist who probably got lost on the way to Nimbin. But secretly (and sometimes openly), we are jealous of that most easterly town and its glorious beaches, celebrity holiday houses and yoga-loving perfect-bodied creatures. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Byron. I actually like it, and many of my friends (who if they read this may not be anymore) live and breathe the Byron way of life. It does have beautiful beaches and intimidatingly attractive habitants. But people have the misconception that it’s a hippy town… the hippy folk moved inland or swapped their lifestyle for something a little more quiet and affordable years ago.

Originating from a coastal town myself, I too have been on the other, sandier, side. The side that feels superior, living in the town with beaches and tourists. This attitude was engrained in us somehow. Back when I went to school in Port Macquarie it was compulsory to hate and laugh about our inland neighbour, Wauchope. Wauchope was a few degrees hotter, dusty and we’d heard the kids from there were inbred. We only went over there to catch a train to somewhere better. I spoke to someone who was from there (and now in Lismore) and they thought the Port kids were a bunch of pompous jerks! Now living on the west side of the fence, I begin to wonder: maybe those kids were the cooler ones all along?

Photos thanks to Lismore Nimbin Tourism and Kirra Pendergast lis10_a4-X2 DSC_2527-X2 DSC_2397-X2 DSC_2097-X2 BCH_1141 Credit_KirraPendergast-0932 DSC_2089-XL