Strawberry Fields Spring Festival - Australia
Murray River, Tocumwal, NSW. 16-18 November 2018
Unsure if you are an ageing hippie, a techno vibehead or still on your own world music journey? Only one thing to do: head for the banks of Australia’s mightiest river, the Murray, at Tocumwal in Australia, this November. There you can mix your own living playlist to the rustle of gum leaves and the gurgles of some of the world’s oldest waters. The Strawberry Fields Festival (SFF) happens for three days between 16-18 November. Just in time to help spring shake your stiff sinews into action.
The Murray is the river longest in Australia, and is lined with eucalyptus gums as it snakes through the flatlands of western NSW and NE Victoria. It forms a serene backdrop for the three-day music and arts festival that this year is looking to welcome up to 8,000 audio and experiential visitors. Several performance stages blend into the tree-lined Murray banks through the use of natural materials, and art installations pop up unexpectedly to keep your mind fresh. And of course there is food. And workshops. And dressing up. And more . . .
As the organisers put it, “you can choose your own adventure." They suggest options like discovering a hidden bush shack serving tea samurai style. Improvising with a jazz band. Taking a bath amongst projections of light and laser, starting the day with yoga and a swim, sampling delicious art, food and music from around the world and more. It’s a bit trite, but their key message is to “… be willing to dream, to open your mind, explore. But don't forget to smile.”
Billed as a friendly, sustainable, and open-minded gathering, SFF says it relies on several basic rules such as Look after Your Mates, Leave No Trace, No Fires, No Glass and No Antisocial Behaviour. This framework has worked well for the last 10 years, and looks to continue for the foreseeable future. As SFF director Tara Benney noted after one of the previous SFFs, “… festivals are an incredible social catalyst – they can bring you some of the most rewarding and inspiring experiences of your life.”
Previous years saw headline names like Yothu Yindi & The Treaty Project, Nightmares on Wax, Andrew Weatherall, Total Giovanni and CC: Disco on the bill, along with many others. This year an equally eclectic mix will see Dirtwire, 30/70, Hiatus Kaiyote, Max Graef, Wax’o Paradiso, Kaiit, and The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra offering a musical background to food, art and experience playing across five stages.
These include the laid back Beach, a.k.a "Playa Del Murray", and the famous Wildlands built venue offering some of the most innovative stage designs Australia has ever seen.
Additionally, this year the SFF will offer a ground-breaking ticket discount for low-income earners. Benney said the initiative – which will chop around 50% off the three-day price – is designed to bring the event into the scope of people who want to expand their usual frame of reference.
“Festivals can be transformative for people, whether it’s meeting their best friends or falling in love or just seeing things they’ve never seen before,” she said, noting that the organisers were convinced that should not just be available to those with disposable incomes.
“People can be inspired by [festivals], and I don’t think that experience should be restricted to people who can afford to pay the full cover charge,” she told a local journal. The organisers say this is the first Australian festival to implement such a scheme, overseas festivals like the famous Burning Man festival offer similar programs.
Even more generously, the organisers respect not just the local aboriginal tribes who lived on the land, but also anybody who has a birthday that coincides with the festival dates. “We are proud to continue the tradition for 2018,” say the organisers. “Present a valid driver’s license or passport at the gate showing that your birthday falls on 15, 16, 17 or 18 November, and we will let you in 100% for free,” they confirm.
Expect big queues of birthday boys and girls at SFF.