Women in Harmony sing Mama Be By My Side in the round at The Northern Rivers Conservatorium of Music on the opening day of the Lismore Women's Festival.
Women in Harmony sing Mama Be By My Side in the round at The Northern Rivers Conservatorium of Music on the opening day of the Lismore Women's Festival. Sophie Moeller

We are full of the unexpected

WOMEN'S day at the Quad in Lismore. The atmosphere is relaxed, benevolent. There are drifts of people ambling about or lounging under trees, idly chatting or watching on good-naturedly.

In the library the Boomerang Bag ladies are sewing reusable bags out of donated fabric. This part of a community effort to beat back the seeming unstoppable tide of plastic in our town. If it's bad here, what's it like in big cities?

I look for the Slow Sewing Circle. Slowly I realise that the event has not been held in time, so I end up at the singing group. The redoubtable choir master Imogen Woolf encourages women to sing and it's so much fun. I renew my resolution to join a choir.

A flash mob of wonder women jump into the Quad and dance, shake fists and punch the sky. None of the Wonder Women look like regular media representations of women. No one is magazine thin, and no one looks sulky. I don't see one swishy ponytail and no active wear. These are real women having fun. I have a quick fantasy that Xena , Warrior Princess, will ride triumphantly into the Quad with her 'good friend' Gabrielle at her side. They would find acceptance here in our tolerant town. No worries Xena, I think, come and join us. We'd be fine with you and your 'good friend'.

I wonder over to the art gallery. It's cool and spacious and inviting. Inside: a surprise. Here I find genuine art works by Picasso, Chagall, Miro, Rembrandt, and Dali. It is extraordinary that these incredible works ended up in our little town. This is no European gallery with queues a mile long and loads of selfie taking tour groups. This Lismore way.

You can see these extraordinary works for free and no crowds. The art gallery is fabulous with other displays including the extraordinary craftsmanship of the Hannah Cabinet and amazing needlework display.

Outside nothing much is happening and everyone seems to be having a good time doing that very thing. Nothing much.

I keep telling yers. Lismore is full of unexpected secrets and delights. We are an eclectic bunch. We go from Monster Trucks to Viking Village to genuine works by the Old Masters.

I say again, when people from the coast recoil ever so slightly, as if they might catch something, once they realise they are talking to someone from Lismore, be kind, smile nicely and move along quickly.

See photographs of our Wonder Women and Women in Harmony on the back page.


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