At Strawberry Fields Festival there’s nothing to get hung about. Organisers have hit on an inclusive approach, through a program offering heavily discounted tickets to music fans who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to attend.
Now entering its 11th edition in the wildlands of Tocumwal on the Murray River, Strawberry Fields returns with its “Low Income Ticket Program,” which unlocks cheaper entry to 500 punters who can establish that they’re in a lower-income bracket.
The cut-price tickets were trialled in 2017 and the majority of applications have come from students who are navigating study while holding down part-time work. Festival-goers from across all walks have applied, including those employed in low-income jobs, apprentices, backpackers, single parents and folks experiencing financial hardship.
The idea was inspired by Burning Man Festival in the United States which has been running a similar program for years. “I went out there in 2011 and saw that they had this program and wondered why no one else had done it,” festival director and head booker Tara Benney tells TIO.
“We’re coming from a place of trying to give back what festivals gave to us as people,” Benney adds.
“Festivals have changed a lot in the past ten years. They’ve, by and large, become a lot more inaccessible to people. One of the downsides of crazy regulatory costs and touring competition and inflation, is that ticket prices have gone up,” she notes.
“Most of the time that’s fair, because the margins for putting on a festival aren’t great. At the same time it leaves us restricted in the type of audience who can say, hey, let’s shell out hundreds for tickets, fuel, glamping, food and booze.”
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The program runs for three months alongside general ticket sales, and wraps up this Wednesday (July 31). An assessor has already processed hundreds of applications on a case by case basis and contacted successful applicants with a code to buy a ticket, which is priced at $165 (plus booking fee), against the general price of $280-$362 (plus booking fee).
Roughly 100 of those low income tickets are still available.
The festival has grown from a 1,000 capacity in its first year to 9,500 for its 2019 event, which will take place Nov. 29 – Dec. 1. Each of the past five years have sold out. “We probably could have grown faster,” notes Benney, “but we’ve consciously decided to grow slowly.”
Strawberry Fields, like the namesake festival which took place over several years in south east Queensland during the mid-90s, has a strong dance and electronic lineup complemented with a solid live bill, featuring the likes of legendary U.S. DJ Derrick May, Peach, Bob Moses and many more.
“The aim is for any type of person with musical inclinations to see 3-5 artists who’ll just blow you away. We try to keep it diverse, and broad,” says Benney. “The only thing we don’t do is country.”