As Strawberries & Creem celebrates its fifth edition, Access catches up with co-founder Louise Young.
Strawberries & Creem, which boasts one of the youngest festival organiser teams in the UK, is hitting its stride with a 10,000-strong visitor count and a line-up including autotune god T-Pain and acclaimed DJ ShyFX.
The Haggis Farm, near Cambridge, based event is curated by the youngest festival team in the UK, with an average age of just 24.
Of these, only two members of staff are full time, the rest are juggling full-time jobs, or are still at University.
Despite their youthful facade, the team have previously secured decidedly high-calibre talent at previous events, including Wiley, Skepta, J Hus and Kano.
Co-founder Louise Young tells Access that the festival is continuing to meet its MO of celebrating the future, while championing heritage.
“We aim to align the content and campaigns with our S&C mantra and make sure it is authentic as possible for our audience.
“Being the same age as our audience, we know how we want to be spoken to, and we work with brands to come up with content and experiences that will resonate with our customers.”
As such, choosing who to work with has proved a big challenge. “For the music festivals especially we are one big family who love what we do and care about it more than anything else.
“It takes a lot of trust for someone, whether a supplier, volunteer or a crew member, to become part of that family.
“Luckily I’ve been able to retain a strong core team of suppliers and crew, but I’ve always had to learn when someone or a company doesn’t quite fit with the festival. There are a lot of amazing individuals and suppliers out there but it doesn’t mean that they are all 100% suitable for the festival.”
This year, Young engaged in more delegation and streamlining on site with a shift in crew and suppliers.
“I’ve changed sites every year for four years, so it’s amazing to stay on the same site for two years running.
“It gives me a chance to perfect and refine the brand as well as improve efficiencies behind the scenes. We are already thinking of new ideas for engaging and creative content for next year but don’t want to run before we can walk.”
Frustrations can abound in the festival game, and Young has learnt the importance of attention to detail. “Communication and hard work are vital. The festival doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of planning and intricate detail that most people will never know about. If everyone is communicative and upfront then everything will happen more smoothly.
“It’s very easy to separate the men from the boys – or the women from the girls – when it comes to hard work. It can be quite a shock to work a challenging 12 hour (and the rest!) shift when on site, I can normally tell quite early on who’s going to be left standing at the end of the day.”
The future for festivals is something Young has been observing with interest and caution. “RFID or cashless systems are becoming more prominent throughout the industry,” she says.
“A couple of years ago I almost took the leap and decided to go with cashless throughout the whole festival, but I don’t think everyone (including the punters) were ready for it then.
“There have been a few teething problems with cashless systems so I’m glad we didn’t use the festival as a guinea pig for the system. Now, however, I am considering using RFID going forward. There’s a lot more data that can be collected to benefit the festival in terms of operations as well as marketing, but also the customer experience is meant to be heightened thanks to the cashless efficiencies.”
Speaking of the future, Young also has tips for those interested in the industry.
“Volunteering! Events always need volunteers whether it’s for artist liaison, event control, décor, or waste management they play a massive role in the whole event.
“Once you’re part of the team your experience will only expand from there but it takes a lot of trust and hard work to get there.”