Words: Pietro Cavalieri
What makes a good festival good and a great festival great? If you look at some of the world’s greatest including Burning Man, Boom Festival and Rainbow Serpent, what makes these festivals so wonderful is the collaborative efforts between organisers, artists and attendees.
This year, we delved behind the scenes at Strawberry Fields to share what goes on in the background to showcase the work that is often gone unnoticed – the efforts of the punters.
Strawberry Fields in particular is more than just good music and great vibes. The collaboration between punters, artists and organisers in 2016 saw a total ramp up of décor and art that created an extra special experience.
Strawberry Fields organisers stated that ‘visual art, décor, installations and performance are as important to Strawberry Fields as music’, and they definitely didn’t disappoint.
The festival collaborated with a multitude of art and design companies, including The Pier Group, Eness, John Fish, Lucid Space Design and the Utility Kinnect Insect (UKI) crew, which helped bring the festival to life.
We chatted to the guys from UKI, who designed and built the UKI Art Car Mobile Art Stage.
The UKI Art Car at Strawberry Fields Festival 2016.
Autosea: What inspired you to make the UKI Art Car?
UKI: We wanted to create something that multiple people could collaborate on and produce something of a high quality to show the capabilities of people from Melbourne.
Autosea: How did you get involved with making and supplying the car for Strawberry Fields this year?
UKI: The UKI Art Car was not specifically made for Strawberry Fields. It has been in the planning process for two years and took nearly a year to build. It will do events and festivals in Australia and then it will be shipped to the United States next year. We were approached by the head of production at Strawberry Fields and then we met with one of the directors.
Autosea: How did Strawberry Fields support the concept behind the scenes?
UKI: Strawberry Fields were good to work with and took care of a lot of the smaller details that often get overlooked at festivals. We were employed to run UKI as a mobile stage for the duration of the festival. Strawberry booked and programmed the artists that played on the UKI stage.
One of most noticeable changes at the festival this year was the introduction of theme camps. The most memorable was the Organic Audio Stage curated by Paris Volpe and Michael Muska. The stage was constructed from mainly recycled materials sourced by a community of hardworking people involved in the stage and all organisers were volunteers, simply doing it for the love of it.
The stage was positioned at the start of the campgrounds, which enticed punters to check out the amazing musical showcase from some of Melbourne’s most talented DJs or chill out on the jungle playground before heading over to the main festival site.
Festival goers at Strawberry Fields Festival 2016.
There was also a small dome tent theme camp run by punters nearby, which added a ‘house party’ vibe to the festival.
We caught up with Paris Volpe to see what he had to say about the stage.
Autosea: What is your general opinion about theme camps at Strawberry?
Paris: Theme camps are an amazing way for small crews to express their creative minds and show the music community what they are capable of. We should encourage as many crews to apply for theme camps as possible.
Autosea: What inspired you to apply for a theme camp?
Paris: Strawberry was my first electronic music and arts festival (bush doof). It opened my eyes to a whole new world of creativity, music and culture. I think it’s the most beautifully built festival out of all of them. The organic structures, bamboo stages and art installations are incredible. It has inspired me in my career to strive to be the best I can and it was a privilege to be approved to work alongside their amazing team.
Autosea: What help were you given to fund the project?
Paris: Strawberry Fields funded 70% of the cost of our project as well as providing the sound system and the space to build our dream Ewok Village.
Autosea: How many other people were involved in the Organic Audio theme camp?
Paris: All up there were 60 people involved in the theme camp, which included artists, builders, décor artists, sound technicians, riggers, project managers, lighting designers and stage managers.
Autosea: How long did it take to build the stage?
Paris: The building of the stage started on Monday and finished on Friday, so five days in total.
Autosea: What feedback have you received from Strawberry and the community?
Paris: Everyone loved it. Most people loved the fact that our stage was like a playground for adults.
Autosea: Do you have plans to get involved in a theme camp next year?
Paris: Yes, we will definitely be bringing this stage back to Strawberry next year!
Art installation at Strawberry Fields 2016.
Another great example of punters being a part of creating the vibe of the whole festival is the array of renegade stages throughout. One of the main crews behind these stages over the past two years is Melbourne’s own Hidden Jumanji Crew.
After throwing an epic 12 hour renegade rave at Strawberry last year, they returned in full force to take things to another level in 2016. We caught up with George De Silva to see what he had to say about his experience.
Autosea: What inspired you to run this stage?
George: I think the main thing that inspired me to do this was going to those amazing parties in the big dome tents at the end of Rainbow Serpent. It was always something to look forward to at the end of the festival.
Autosea: How many of you were involved in this stage?
George: For Hidden Jumanji, there were three of us involved (myself, James and Marian) but we also had the helping hands of our good friends Boaty and Choc. This year we also had the pleasure of the Autosea lads along-side us to get shit done.
Autosea: What feedback did you receive from punters after your stages over the last two years?
George: In 2015 we received amazing feedback. People were posting to the festival’s Facebook describing it as the highlight of their weekend (they were obviously asleep for a good 72 hours). We also received emails from people describing their experience in detail. In 2016 however, we were shut down at 2:30am so people were a little disappointed that the music had stopped. It was a bit difficult trying to deal witth irrational people a bit high that just wanted to keep dancing and couldn’t understand why the music had to be turned off, but in all fairness they just wanted to have a good time.
Obviously it’s a shame that we were shut down, but I understand and respect the festival organisers for their decision. I think there is a lot more to it in regards to music levels that punters don’t tend to take into account.
Autosea: Do you agree with the statement that part of what makes strawberry so special is punters organising experiences for other punters?
George: I think that statement “what makes Strawberry so special’ can mean ANYTHING. From the amazing music, the lush Australian bush and my favourite, the Murray River being so easily accessible. These are just a few of the things that can give someone a special experience at Strawberry Fields. Punters organising experiences for punters could be anything from throwing a renegade stage, or simply having a beer, giving someone a hug or having that memorable moment on the dance floor with a complete stranger who becomes your best friend for the next 30 seconds.