Peter Geddes and his family came to came to Bellingen in 1972. His early footage has been used in The Promised Land shown recently to appreciative local audiences.
Peter Geddes and his family came to came to Bellingen in 1972. His early footage has been used in The Promised Land shown recently to appreciative local audiences.

Rare footage captures region’s hippie heritage

FORMER journalist Peter Geddes came to Bellingen with his family in the early 70s.

He was part of the town's hippie history - when the Age of Aquarius children came to the region, buying up defunct dairy farms and sending shockwaves through sleepy country towns with their alternative lifestyles.

Peter established The Good Food Shop across the road from the pub where you could buy things like brown rice and yoghurt which would have been considered 'alternative' in those days.

Peter Geddes and his family came to came to Bellingen in 1972
Peter Geddes and his family came to came to Bellingen in 1972

He began documenting those times as the new generation bought old farms, built homes, planted gardens, held markets and festivals and lived what many believed was a dream lifestyle.

The footage sat collecting dust for decades until Pamela Whitehead, who used to own the town's video store, asked him if he had any photos of the 70s and 80s era.

While he couldn't help with photos his thoughts turned to the old footage.

Pamela felt that part of Bellingen's history was not well documented, so she contributed funds to get Peter's films digitised.

When a clip from Kalang market on YouTube got almost 15,000 hits his friend and film editor Peter Gailey got in touch and said they had to do something with the footage.

The result is the two-hour documentary The Promised Land which just finished a run of shows at the Memorial Hall.

Filmmaker Peter Geddes at a recent showing of The Promised Land. Photo: Janine Watson
Filmmaker Peter Geddes at a recent showing of The Promised Land. Photo: Janine Watson

As well as the idyllic alternative lifestyle the film touches on the culture shock and conflict the newcomers brought.

The battle to save the community centre (where the Council chambers now stand) became particularly bitter.

But in large the film sees the hippie influx as the catalyst the town needed to reinvent itself and sowed the seeds that allowed Bellingen to evolve into the unique place it is today.

The archival footage is interlaced with contemporary interviews with warm cheers from the audience for the likes of Darcey Browning - sometimes referred to as the Mayor of Darkwood.

He acknowledged the hippies were certainly "different" but also vital in breathing new life into the valley.

Well known local jeweller Ian (Mac) MacArthur who operates MacArt Jewellery on Hyde Street was also featured.

The film also pays respects to the Indigenous history of the area in both the opening and closing scenes.


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