Last week, 30 or so people gathered in a beautifully serene spot beside a tiny river in the Byron Bay hinterland. Chefs David Moyle, Mark LaBrooy (Three Blue Ducks) and Pip Sumbak (who creates open-fire cooking experiences in Byron Bay and surrounds) tended to a fire they then used to cook split prawns drizzled with butter, pippies doused in XO, legs of lamb and leeks, cabbage and peppers. Guests watched on as drinks were poured – beer by Byron’s Stone & Wood and vino by Jilly Wines, which is made in Clunes nearby. And when lunch was ready, everyone sat down on a long linen-clad table to eat.
This is the kind of scene and event Caper founder and co-director, Alex Taylor, is organising for November. The full name for the four-day extravaganza is the Caper Byron Bay Food and Culture Festival (the event was formerly named Revel, but changed its name in September), which will be a celebration of a lot of the things that make the Northern Rivers region, particularly Byron, so unique – such as excellent produce, world-class restaurants, its arts community and its counterculture ethos.
Think lunches in picturesque locations, performances, twilight soirees, art installations, restaurant takeovers, panel discussions, markets and tours. There’s also going to be a gin garden, workshops, health and wellness classes, and more.
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“It’s born from a love of this community, and a real belief that the area deserves a festival and an event that showcases its rich history, culture and natural beauty,” Taylor tells Broadsheet. “It’s about bringing together the best of the community.”
The one thing that almost everyone mentioned while eating on that long table, is they’re surprised Byron hasn’t already had something like this. “Yeah, we get that a lot,” says Taylor.
Taylor is a Byron region fangirl. She talks passionately and enthusiastically about the calibre of produce, as well as the restaurants, artists and makers of the area. Along with fellow co-director Jonny Ruddy, she wants Caper to remind tourists (and even locals) what’s so excellent about the Northern Rivers – especially after a rough couple of years hijacked by Covid and the floods.
And they have big, ambitious plans for the festival. “We’re hoping Caper will have a similar impact [on] the region to Dark Mofo’s on Hobart and Tasmania,” says Taylor.
At the centre of Caper will be a food, drinks, music and art hub called the Festival Village, which will take over the entire North Byron Hotel and its carpark in the Byron Arts and Industrial Estate. While the itinerary is still being worked out, the precinct will feature pop-ups by top restaurants from the region, including Harvest, Raes on Wategos, The Farm, Three Blue Ducks, Belongil Beach Italian Food, Bang Bang Byron Bay, Barrio, Capiche, The Hut, Beach Byron Bay, The Roadhouse and Treehouse on Belongil. The Mosey on Inn group’s Ciao Mate!, The Eltham and You Beauty are also involved.
The food program is led by Caper’s food curator, David Moyle. The acclaimed chef is now chief of food at notable Byron hinterland restaurant Harvest Newrybar, but also lists Hobart’s lauded (but now-closed) Franklin and Melbourne’s Longsong on his resume. He and the Caper team are working with chefs to create events that show off their food, but also might include artists and local makers.
“This community has been rocked by so many challenges in the past few years,” Moyle tells Broadsheet. “This festival is going to bring people back together to enjoy the company of friends and family with good food and good vibes in a beautiful setting.”
Taylor and Ruddy are also working cultural and industry figures to build the program, including Arakwal Bundjalung woman Delta Kay, and artists Paul McNeil and Karlee Mackie. Caper’s event producer is Abbie Gibson from Three Blue Ducks. Watch out for more details about Beachside Caper, which will happen near Byron’s Main Beach, and the Secret Caper Garden.
Caper Byron Bay Food and Culture Festival is on Thursday November 10 to Sunday 13. Sign up for ticket release info and more here.
This story was updated on Tuesday September 13 to reflect the name change.