Small Town Tensions On the Table at Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival

Allison Gibbs writes about the tensions in a small town between loggers and hippies.
She will appear at the Bellingen Readers Writers Festival.


ALLISON Gibbs has just launched her first novel Repentance, set in 1976 in a north coast logging town where counter culture influences create tensions with the timber industry.

Allsion is in conversation with Jess Hill, discussing the book at the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival where they will discuss the themes of the novel.

“The novel contains a lot about protest movements in general, from the picketing of abortion clinics in the 1940s to the anti-Vietnam marches and women’s lib movement.

“I wanted to examine the polarising power of these issues, of how we view them through the prism of our ancestry, social paradigms and spiritual beliefs,” Ms Gibbs told News Of The Area.

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“I’m interested in the tension between peaceful protest and militancy as a means of achieving social change, an issue that gained fresh relevance as I was editing the book, with the rise of neo-liberalism, Black Lives Matter and the #metoo movement.

“But all this discussion of themes overlooks the fact that Repentance is essentially a story about people.

“A lot happens in this small town in the months leading up to Christmas, 1976, particularly in the life of 13-year-old Joanne Parmenter who works in her family’s general store after school.

“As her mother dies of cancer in the house behind the shop, Joanne is drawn to a hippie household where she finds herself caught between worlds and is forced to make decisions for herself,” she said.

Ms Gibbs grew up in Kyogle till she was seven, then Goonellabah and in her teens her family bought a farmlet at Clunes and she spent her formative years growing up there playing in waterfalls and revelling in her teenage hippie years.

“I love the dynamics of small towns as they are a wonderful microcosm of a variety of people.

“So when you are looking at a moment of change all the players converge into a small space.

“What I was most interested in was looking at social concerns in ‘76.

“At that time there wasn’t a lot of thought about forestry practices, farming practices or concerns for the finite resources,” she said.

“I wanted to explore that moment of change and consider it from different angles.

“Through the eyes and intersecting stories of a 13-year-old girl, a disaffected single mother looking for love, a retired saw-doctor gone feral and the owner of the local sawmill, the book asks what it means to belong, and to love and care for the places where we live.”

Catch Allison Gibbs in conversation with Jess Hill and with Malcolm Knox at the Bellingen Readers Writers Festival.

Tickets are still available online.


By Sandra MOON


Repentance published by Scribe is out now.

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