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The Arts Factory: where did it all begin?

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You’ve seen The Inbetweeners film right? Well, remember the sequel? The part where the boys arrive in Byron Bay and check into their very first Australian hostel? Well if you’re wondering why it looked so familiar… it was in fact the Arts Factory Lodge! But there’s more to the Arts Factory than a feature in a feature film.

Note from the Inbetweeners after filming

For those of you that have had the pleasure of stopping by this place we like to call a “home away from home,” you’ll know that the Arts Factory has a mystical richness… an aura that embodies everything you ever expected from Byron Bay and the potential to envelop you in a sea of calmness, peace and release you back in to the “real” world refreshed and like a whole new person.

But have you ever wondered where it all began? Lets take a look…


The Arts Factory Lodge has now been in operation for 23 years as a backpacker hostel, hosting tens of thousands of wide eyed travellers looking for an experience that might change their life. Originally the site was a piggery, hence where the famous music venue gets its name. Then it was a concrete factory, later still a bus depot, all of which closed down.

In the 1970’s the Byron Bay region was discovered by alternative life-stylers, who would become known as hippies. The Aquarius festival held in Nimbin in 1973 was a counter-cultural arts and music festival that led to many communes and a creative think tank in the region.

arts factory lodge history
Gardening at The Arts Factory Lodge


In 1984 Dan Doepel purchased the building on site at the Arts Factory to create a music venue that would offer gigs to local, national and international acts. He called it The Piggery to commemorate the original site.

The venue went on to experience incredible success. In fact it was the venue that originated and hosted the first few Blue’s Fest gigs. Amazing hey? Now one of the biggest and successful music festivals in the world, and it started right here! Some of the bands that played the Piggery include; Eric Burdon, Charlie Musselwaite, The Ramones, Phil Manning, Canned Heat, The Pogues, The Violent Femmes, Paladins, Crowded House and Paul Kelly. At the time Byron Bay had a population of about 4,000 people, so imagine being able to see world class gigs in a town this size!

bluesfest arts factory lodge history
Bluesfest at The Arts Factory Lodge

1993 – 2008

The Piggery outgrew its own success, by the mid 1990’s music venues were in every city and town, so once Dan had handed it over The Piggery became defunct. But along came the Lowry’s – the new custodians for the Arts Factory. The son’s Sein & Nissen were keen surfers that had been coming to Byron Bay for many years.

The parents, Bob & Patti, were looking to semi-retire and move north of Sydney. Their sons encouraged them to look at this amazing new property with a view to creating a backpacker hostel. So was born, the Arts Factory Backpackers Lodge. The Lowry’s were inspired by the local alternative community and travellers. They wanted to add their family spirit and creative genius. So they did, to develop and foster the creative living space we still know today.

Many people were there to help develop this amazing new space and create a campground that has become the most iconic part of this property. The Jungle has become a rite of passage the world over where young travellers have been coming to find or lose themselves, check in for a week but stay a year and connect to a family that will last forever.

byron bay camping
Campground Byron Bay

2009 – present

Nomads took over the Arts Factory Lodge when the Lowry family decided it was time to hand over the reins. Lucky for the Arts Factory, they decided to just leave everything as it is. This includes many of the long term staff that have been at the helm for many years, making sure the property stays grounded and keeps the basis of being a property for travellers, with many opportunities for travellers to contribute to what the Arts Factory is, and we hope, always will be.

activities arts factory lodge
Yoga at The Arts Factory Lodge

What we are famous for:

  • The Piggery music venue
  • The BluesFest originated from the Piggery
  • Sleeping in a teepee
  • The bush tucker walk
  • The talent show
  • Creativity and music
  • Craig Shaw
  • Cockatoo Paul
  • Mr Pickles
  • Jungle camping/family
  • Guinness World Record 2009, most fire twirlers – 206 twirlers for 5 minutes
  • Featured in the In Betweeners movie 2014
  • Featured on Getaway TV show – twice
  • Featured on Charlie Boormans TV series By Any Means
  • We change people’s lives – every day

So what are you waiting for? Stop by The Arts Factory Lodge and see it for yourself!

Inbetweeners filming at The Arts Factory Lodge

Dedicated to Craig Shaw – this blog is dedicated to this man, who has been here for 23 years. Craig has helped so many people, worked with so many staff, it is impossible to say how much this guy has rocked so many worlds… but he sure has. Big shout out Craig – we love you!

7 thoughts on “The Arts Factory: where did it all begin?

  1. Hi,This is Vin Gorman,the artist who had painted the mural in the laundry room that existed back in1993.I also did the butterfly/woman painting on what had been the womens toilet/shower room back then.Sean and Nissan,sons of Bob and Patty,the owners then and maybe still are.If they are reachable will you please send this to them.I felt I was close to them back then.I had also taken over Heidis’ booth on the ground floor of the venue as an art space while she was absent.I also did body painting on barbique nites,Fun! Stayed there for 6 months.Left my little blue car for 6+ months.They kept it till my return.Many thanks for that.Craig will remember me if he’s around.So I hope this finds you all thriving,happy and healthy.Thanks for the memories.Peace,live long and prosper.

  2. Just a few things I would like to correct . I made surfboard leg ropes in the piggery before Dan bought the place . He came to visit all the time for a smoke . Together we started putting on bands in Lismore city hall like BB Kind , Blondie to name a few . Then someone a guy we knew started sabotaging the gigs by wrecking the hall to screw us . So when Dan came to get stoned at where I worked at the piggery which was a slaughter house for pigs originally , we walked around the joint and he said it would make a great night club . The rest is history . Now to correct the above nomads spiel . He built the Arts Factory lodge not Bob and his sons . I took it over as we were business partners and sold it to Bob and Patti around 94′ . Dan was a genius and made Byron leap ahead . That was the second backpackers in town , the first out Bangalow road . Cheers Derry

    1. Hello Derry,
      My name is Megan which you know. I have stumbled upon this article while looking for an artist that made a drawing of what appears to be my fathers face. He loved you more than most humans. I believe you know that but I had to tell you again. Your comments made me feel for the first time in many years. He was my everything. Thank you for telling the story with truth. I do not know that you will receive this message but, as the man once used to say, Ciao.

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