Connection, Immersion and Authenticity: Three Ingredients for Community Building After Devastating Climate Events
photos JESS KEARNEY
After devastating climate events, how do we continue to support the local community? Through connection, immersion and authenticity: three words being used to describe Caper Byron Bay (FKA Revel) – a new culinary celebration set to take over the Northern Rivers this coming November. Looking to spotlight the produce, restaurants and community ethos of Byron and its surrounds, the team behind the festival are passionate about supporting and celebrating what makes the region so special.
With a program that boasts long lunches on Country, sourdough workshops, local artist exhibitions, bushtucker tours and so much more, Caper is writing the blueprint for community engagement after 2022 delivered blow after blow to the area. Here we speak to founder and director Alex Taylor, director Jonny Ruddy and festival food curator David Moyle to learn more.
above FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR ALEX TAYLOR, DIRECTOR JONNY RUDDY
Can you tell us a little bit about what Caper Byron Bay is and what you’re hoping to achieve?
Alex: Caper Byron Bay is a food and culture festival celebrating all the things that make this region special. Aside from the stunning natural beauty of this place, we have an amazing hub of incredibly talented creative people and entrepreneurs doing cool stuff, so we’ve decided it’s time to bring these people together and revel in the food, drink, music, art and culture that surrounds us. What that translates to is over 30 satellite events across four days held in restaurants, breweries, distilleries, art galleries, pubs, warehouses, private hinterland locations, prime beachside spots… the list goes on. The heart of the festival is in the Byron Arts and Industrial Estate (the best-kept secret in Byron) where we’re creating a food, art and entertainment hub for three days, 11 to 13 November, to bring together the most important elements of the festival into one space.
Mostly we want to create a positive reunion within the community while also supporting the local businesses and contributing to a continual flow of tourism to the region.
It’s been a tough few years for everyone but especially this region with the flood disaster earlier this year following a difficult time through the pandemic, so mostly we want to create a positive reunion within the community while also supporting the local businesses and contributing to a continual flow of tourism to the region.
The recent floods have obviously devastated the region. How can we support regional communities after climate events such as these?
Alex: Come back! Spend your holidays here and invest back into the area.
right DAVID MOYLE, FESTIVAL FOOD CURATOR
How is the local hospo community bouncing back?
Alex: The biggest challenge facing the hospitality community, I think across the board but most definitely in Byron Bay, is staff shortage. Byron Bay has traditionally relied on backpackers within hospo which the pandemic majorly interrupted and it’s nowhere near getting back to what it was pre-pandemic. On top of that, affordable housing in the region is also a problem as staff can’t afford to live in the area. So while the hospitality community is bouncing back from where things got to during the height of COVID, it’s still a struggle. Most venues are still operating at reduced hours and it’s constant problem-solving to “plug holes” in staffing or pivot to make things work – it’s pretty exhausting for all involved but the reassuring thing is that patrons are back with a rejuvenated appreciation for dining out.
Is short-lived tourism a problem for the area? How do you think Caper will address this?
Jonny: Our aim is to put a spotlight on continuing to rebuild the hospitality and arts sector and support local tourism and local employment opportunities from the festival. It’s clear that there are many challenges and a crisis of housing availability and housing affordability within the region, which is an issue where council, government and landowners need to work together. We welcome any intersection and conversation we can have as an events team with the council and government to discuss the need and benefits of events like this within the region and how they can best work for the tourism industry and the community.
left ALANNA SAPWELL, BEACH BYRON BAY HEAD CHEF
What do you think makes a great festival food experience?
David: I believe great festival food experiences are genuine and engaging. My favourite moments have always been ones that are lighthearted – the simple interactions.
My favourite moments have always been ones that are lighthearted – the simple interactions.
Is food still the ultimate equaliser? Why do you think it brings people together?
David: Food is Switzerland. It offers such a passive platform to convene. Eating and sharing food is generous and also very expressive in how and what is presented while not being divisive.
Why do you think Byron is the ultimate foodie destination?
David: The Northern Rivers have such a magnificent food culture due to the climate, soil and its people. The markets are so well supported and we are lucky to have so many passionate producers.
left MATT STONE OF CIAO MATE!, YOU BEAUTY AND ELTHAM HOTEL
What are you most looking forward to in the program?
Jonny: I am most looking forward to the program within the festival village which will include everything from tasting plates from some of the most incredible restaurants within the region, live music, guest chef appearances, talks, a kids’ program and more.
What are three words you’d use to describe Caper Byron Bay?
Jonny: Connection, immersion, authentic.