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Byron Shire
June 9, 2023

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Byron’s Back

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Maybe the influencers could volunteer at Liberation Larder and meet some of the people who are living rough

‘Byron’s dead’. That’s the statement that I often hear. Or ‘I never go there anymore it’s lost’ or ‘Byron died years ago’. It always makes me feel a bit sad and defensive. I have such a love for this place, although I curse it when I get stuck in snaking traffic at 8am on a weekday morning or I can’t find a park near where I am going.

But maybe Byron’s not dead. Maybe there’s still the spark of resistance in the old girl yet? And the resistance is in the young. It’s not the same crew who rallied against Club Med. What’s dead is the Byron I knew, but the Byron loved by a new generation who inhabit the beaches and cafes and streets with their surfie-come-hipster chill is still very much alive. They’re the people standing up to mega global streaming giant Netflix to protest the filming of Byron Baes, the impending ‘influencer reality saga’ that intends to film in our seaside village.

The outspoken crew are the real influencers of our area (via socials or not). They are people like Ruby Tuesday, with in excess of 220k followers on Instagram; local musician and owner of The Byron Bay General Store, Ben Gordon; Tahlia Ward who owns No Bones vegan restaurant, and Arnhem Bickley, owner of Arnhem Clothing – with a following of almost 400k people. These are young people at the top of their game. They grew up here. They have created remarkably successful businesses here. You’d think a Netflix series that goes out to 200 million subscribers would pique their self-interest. Won’t it benefit them? If it does, they don’t care. They love Byron Bay and they believe that this show would break it forever.

They’re just some of Byron’s powerful voices coming together to say “No!”. Apparently you can’t stop filming in your region, even when it’s as callously inappropriate as a show that glamorises a town that is struggling to deal with the worst homelessness it’s ever faced. This fabrication against the backdrop of a fictitious Byron Bay will be sent to 200 million subscribers worldwide; the playground for Netflix’s ‘BAE’s’ (Before Anyone Else type people), which is destined to write a false narrative about this place that will be difficult to erase. What will it do to our town? Who will it bring here? How many? What will become of our local culture because of it? Where will we live?

There are a few filming locations in Byron Bay, and some of the most influencer-friendly are saying “No” to filming. Ironically the eight-part series, which is supposed to start filming in May, showing the lives of influencers in Byron Bay will have to get most of their influencers from elsewhere because our local influencers won’t have a bar of it. Which is wonderfully ironic because the show is boasting ‘authenticity’. The most authentic people won’t be in their show. They’ll have to be brought in. They’ll be the camphor laurels of our town. Just hot girls in bikinis and buff dudes in small shorts trying to take photos of themselves in Woolies or Bunnings or whatever businesses are left that will give them a permit.

Hey, maybe while they’re here they can help out? The incredible beach that Netflix were swooning about is falling into the sea. Maybe the influencers could join Dunecare and actually do something useful? I am sure our local Dunecare could do with a million followers on Insta. Maybe they could volunteer at Liberation Larder and meet some of the people who are living rough, the hard done by and the homeless – the people who are most disenfranchised by the allure of the real estate genie that cashes in on the Byron Bay ‘brand’. Maybe they could give some time to The Hungry Earth and learn about regenerative agriculture?

or, maybe they can go to the Gold Coast where they won’t be noticed.

Netflix have decided we’re the perfect ‘backdrop’. But clearly they got their information about Byron Bay from Instagram. They didn’t do their research. They didn’t speak to local First Nations people, they didn’t speak to our community. One thing they didn’t count on is that this is a town that has a history of fervent activism. This is a community who wants to create something different. We are a pain in the arse. Just ask any developer who’s tried to sneak in something inappropriate. We’re not enticed by your shiny trinkets.

Reality TV is the McDonalds of the production world. And Byron has always said “No” to McDonalds.

So guess what? Byron Bay isn’t dead. It’s very much alive. The spirit of dissent is strong in this lot. We’re in good hands.

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  1. Celebrity-favored Aussie town that fought off McDonalds & KFC now tells Netflix reality show about hot influencers to stay away – TECKHACK

    […] Instagram. They didn’t do their research,” a critical op-ed in the same local newspaper said. “Reality TV is the McDonalds of the production world. And Byron has always said […]

  2. Thanks Mandy for another great article. Sadly, I live on the GC, home of the crass, glitzy and environmentally destructive, filled already with shallow influencers. Please don’t send any more our way! I celebrate every Byron Bay community win against inappropriate development and activities. It is sad but true, if you can’t do it at Bryon, head for the GC- they’ll welcome you with open arms. Stay small and simple, Byron, for as long as you can.

  3. I would like to play devil’s advocate, here on this issue. Even though I am a long-time resident here in Byron Bay and now in Mullumbimby, for 36 years, what right have we got to turn away the next generation of people who are coming here to film!
    When we all arrived in the 1980s and 90s, did we consider the lifestyle of the farmers that were already here, the farmers now whose children will never own a house or get a job here. No we didn’t, we just came, because Byron Bay has open arms, it welcomes the tourists to get a taste of some magic here, so in that context, as much as I would like to retain our alternative bubble here, who are we to deny these Influencers to play their games here, honestly, just allow them, as much as the Spirit of Byron Bay allowed you to visit and stay and live here; we have no right to claim ownership of this land and its ever-changing culture.
    Jain of Mullumbimby.

  4. Well done Mandy, another piece of s4!t from you.
    Did you grow up here and did Ben Gordon,Arnhem Bickley and Tahlia Bones? I think NOT…
    Get your facts straight my kids are 4th generation and this town is F ked.
    MY wifes family owned the Meat works Whaling Station in the 50.s 60.s NOW that was when it was a town,
    everyone knew everyone and everyone cared about everyone but now we have MANDY, ARNHEM and TAHLIA
    telling us this is the way to react.

    • Yes Frank, Ben Gordon grew up here. Arnhem Bickley grew up here. Tahlia Ward also grew up here.
      I take it by your commitment to believing in the rights of people who were born here or have longer family legacy in the region that you are a supporter of First Nations Peoples who have been here far longer than me, or your wife’s family. It is our First Nations who have been here for 1000’s of years that we should consult .
      The irony of this ‘US’ and ‘Them’ narrative that has been a pervasive divider in our community is that the community who professes to have more enitlement to or more love of the region is willing to see the shit kicked out of the place because it would rather that than coming to the table with their fellow community members that they have harboured long resentments towards. I have lived here 30 years and I still don’t get it.


        I’ve been here 28 years
        We are still blow-ins, no matter how much we contribute to the area…
        ho hum
        FORTUNATELY, the local mob are happy for me to stay, that’s all that matters to me.
        Not really interested at all in the opinions of the children of invaders and massacrers, especially when they are bragging about how long they have been on stolen land.

  5. To ALL those vacuous “influencers”: get a life – a REAL one, not your pathetic virtual excuse for one. F#!k off and leave Byron alone, Netfux!

  6. “hot girls in bikinis and buff dudes in small shorts trying to take photos of themselves”

    Pretty sure this describes Byron as it is now. Byron Baes won’t change that!

  7. Good one Mandy!
    Unless we push back, and well done to those who do, we’ll be overrun completely.
    Whether people have been here for generations, or have just arrived, if they care about our town, then welcome, help us fight off rampant Boganism, Air B&B cancer and these idiots that live their phoney lives through Instagram.
    Get up, Stand up!

  8. Here’s an effective idea ….photo bomb at every opportunity with an act of theatrical nose picking. Everybody, altogether now…

  9. Eve with respect !!
    Stolen Lands ?
    Invaders ? Really ?
    “Knowone owns it ”
    “We all belong to the land..”.
    And that came from a prominent first people’s Aboriginal Man …


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