More than 60 acts have been added to the Victorian festival's tenth anniversary edition in November.
Alongside international additions, such as Inga Mauer and Funk D'Void, are dozens of Australian artists like Turner Street Sound, Adi Toohey, Louis McCoy, Midnight Tenderness, Simona, Uone, Mitchell Gee, Muska, Miss Goldie & DJ Manchild and Lori. The announcement is also accompanied by the news that Resident Advisor will be returning to the bush to host another Sunday showcase. More information on that is still to come.
The new acts join previously announced names like Honey Dijon, Carl Craig, DJ Nobu, Jayda G, Pearson Sound and DJ Seinfeld when the riverside campout returns to Tocumwal on the border of NSW and Victoria the weekend of the 16th through 18th.
We spoke with festival directors Tara Benney and Elliot Rothfield in the lead up to the milestone anniversary to reflect on the past ten years of running the event.
What was the catalyst for starting Strawberry Fields?Listen to Inga Mauer's RA podcast.
ELLIOT ROTHFIELD: The short answer is that the people around me and myself fell in love with the psychedelic outdoor community. I was running some psytrance and techno events and Billy, my tall cowboy partner, would come and do quirky bits and pieces at the shows. We just really wanted to give it a shot. Bush parties at that time tended to have very similar musical style and we wanted to start bringing in some new and different music.
What was the first year like?
TARA BENNEY: It was a near-disaster in many ways and yet one of the most fun weekends of my entire life. I think about 24 hours in we realised we hadn't organised anyone to clean the Portaloos before the end of the weekend so had the joy of spraying them down ourselves. Our friend's uncle—who is a skilled artist but also a deeply unpredictable and gloriously strange man—had crafted this giant fish sculpture out of bones, PVC pipe and LED lights that was awkwardly hung behind the DJ. It kept spinning in the wind and hitting them in the side of the head while they were playing. But listening to deep house on the sand banks of the river from a Tipi adorned with totem poles our friend brought over from Papua New Guinea was also pretty special.
How has the festival grown over its lifetime?
ROTHFIELD: In the beginning, it was the wild west of parties. It was a crazy, hilarious, unorganised, dirty, loud, late, confusing, colourful mess of a festival. It was fun. I don't even know if you could call it a festival. It was a blob of people, dancing and having a great time with each other. I quote Move D as saying, "I can't believe you are running this thing," definitely a backhanded compliment. Of course later the team grew, and much better and more organised people started really steering the ship. Tara really took the festival in an amazing direction. Courtney has built our arts programme into something incredible. Billy, as always, does his wondrous production (last year was one of the most beautiful stages I have ever seen). Glyn has taken the bookings to a new level, and of course, there are another 20 people I could name who have taken this from a giant glorified backyard barbecue to what it is today.
What makes the event special to you?
BENNEY: The most special thing to me about the festival is that, for better or worse, it has grown totally organically. We started it with zero industry connections, zero capital, zero fan base and barely a clue about how to run a remote multi-day event. We were barely adults ourselves. I can't even count the number of times we almost called it off on both my hands, but somehow, through perseverance, the hard work of hundreds of people, our fans and some element of luck we are still here. I'm deeply grateful for that.
How have you approached booking and organising the tenth anniversary?
ROTHFIELD: We have mixed old and new. Beyond booking some of our favourites, we have really diversified more than any previous year in my opinion. We just closed Funk D'void, who was actually the first act I ever booked 12 years ago, which is really exciting.
BENNEY: I suppose we have tried to strike a balance between representing a large contingent of the local and international artists who have featured at the festival in the last ten years (Peter Van Hoesen, Move D, Carl Craig), as well as new faces like Honey Dijon and HAAi, who may be taking to the bush for the first time.
What do you see for the future of the festival?
ROTHFIELD: I see us incorporating a lot more speakers, microcosms and installations. Strawberry Fields will never feel like a giant festival, and I love the idea of creating more intimate areas.
BENNEY: More focus on culture, community, art and the environment. We've proven our ability to curate a lineup and deliver vibe on a dance floor, and we're also not the only ones who are good at it. Where we can really make a lasting impact is in the cultivating content that stays with people long after the speakers have been turned off.