About This Festival
Two hundred and forty seven kilometers beyond Melbourne, deep into the New South Wales bush, is a small township called Tocumwal. Tocumwal has a population of 1,970, is home to just one primary school, and is best known for being the home of a giant, fiberglass Murray Cod. Perhaps not the most obvious place to host one of the most progressive and exciting festivals in the southern hemisphere, but Strawberry Fields has thrived there since 2009.
And like a true bushland fairytale, Strawberry Fields just gets better and better as each year passes. Starting out as a techno-focused event, it has broadened its scope to include a wide range of electronic music, as well being as a carousing showcase for artists, entertainers and performance wizards. They make a concerted effort to go local with the names on the bill, and they have only one remit when making their line-up decisions: quality.
Like their European cousins, Australians are starting to realize that big isn’t always better, proven by the recent demise of names such as Parklife and Big Day Out, while Soundwave announced that its 2016 event won’t be going ahead due to poor ticket sales. Events like Strawberry Fields, along with the likes of Mountain Sounds and Secret Gardens, all offer something that the Goliaths struggle to create: a genuine sense of community.
Strawberry Fields’ attendees are strongly encouraged to participate in the festival, whether they contribute art and installations, perform as musicians or devise and host their own theme camp. This democratic attitude and dance music-focused lineup makes it a draw for those who like to expand their consciousness: the sunrise chasers and hard partiers. In the past these revelers have been placed under close scrutiny by the authorities while making their way in to the event. Besides the presence of the police outside the festival, it’s a very relaxed affair and one which allows you to give your mind some time off.
Like its bigger brother Rainbow Serpent, Strawberry Fields has a roving traveler community. It also has a specific grant for arts that pulls in the waifs and strays of the artistic community. The festival throws its arms open wide for newcomers, so if you’ve got something you want to express, this is the place to come and do it!
For those not only there for a rave, there’s a cozy Tea Lounge which gives away warm brews and it has an array of workshops going on throughout. Expect to come across classes for African drumming, shiatsu massage, fire-twirling and the ubiquitous sunset yoga, among others.
You can expect to find a mix of urban weekenders, hippie mainstays and techno kids. Hugs are in abundant supply, and whether you’re looking for some loose Friday night chat or a new BFF, it’s all here.
With a 6,000 capacity, Strawberry Fields operates in that perfect small festival space. There's enough room to play around in, with four stages and one bar. And, if you lose track of one of your newfound friends – which you most likely will – you’re sure to run/bump/stumble/cuddle into them the next day.
At its current, relatively diminutive size, it is an Australian-heavy event, but with its lineups being headed by some of the bigger names on the international scene, this seems likely to change. As ever, how much it does change will come down to a confluence of factors; Do the organizers want to make it bigger? And can they do so in their current location?