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The Call Of The Country – Interview with Mike Beck of Strawberry Fields Festival

Photo credit: MrJones - https://www.facebook.com/PhotographerMrJones

Strawberry Fields Festival Photo credit: MrJones – https://www.facebook.com/PhotographerMrJones

Strawberry Fields Festival is situated in “The Heart Of The National Forest” in the quiet area of Cattows Farm, Heather, Leicestershire. As far as festivals go, this one is rising superfast every year. The organisers listen to their supporters. They improve on the event in all areas and once again, this year is going to be an awesome 3 day weekend.

The line-up – full line-up below – is an eclectic mix of live bands, groups, artists, DJs, and producers. Sonny Wharton, X-Press 2, Jaguar Skills (interview with the Ninja coming soon), MistaJam, Major Look, DJ Switch, 2 Bad Mice are performing as well as The View, The Enemy, The Cuban Brothers as well as a string of other acts from small local bands and DJs.

#SFF2013 is one of the cleanest and greenest events around. I had a chat to co-founder and old friend Mike Beck. He informs us about event diversity, Hollywood superstars and tweed:

Has the idea of putting on a small festival become a little bit more work than you originally thought?

Haha, just a bit! It’s amazing how it consumes so much time. It’s pretty much an all year round thing now. As soon as the event has finished we get straight on with the post-event promotion. It’s important that we show people what actually happened at the event as that is what sells next years festival. Once that’s done we start the plans for the year after, so it all rolls into one now. The upshot is that we have brought more people onto the team to help manage certain areas so we can streamline the whole process. Every year we get more organised, things get done sooner, and the event gets better as a whole. Having said that, the last couple of months leading up to the festival are always crazy no matter how well we try and plan!

You guys – James, Mike, Dave, Ian – are really nailing the line-ups now after the previous three years, aren’t you? I feel the line-up now is far more refined. Do you think so too?

Definitely. The line up is always a tough thing to get right for a number of reasons. Despite our growth over the last few years we’re still a small independent festival and we don’t have the sort of huge budgets that the major festivals have. However, peoples expectations of us seem pretty high now because we’ve had some very big names in the past. Trying to maintain that sort of level is tough. We’ve done really well to find acts like Example and Rizzle Kicks in the past who we’ve booked when they were relatively unknown and have then gone on to blow up in the run up to the festival. If people knew what sort of fees some of the big names command for a festival appearance they’d be gobsmacked. The other problem we face, along with a lot of other events, is our size and the availability of artists due to the sheer number of festivals around now including overseas events. We’ve tried to get several other known acts to the event this year but exclusivity to bigger festivals is something we face every year. As we grow each year we find that we are a more attractive proposition for agents and their artists so the booking process becomes easier for us.

We’re a very diverse event as well musically and getting the blend right each year is also tough. If we were booking one type of music for the festival such as dance or rock it would be a lot simpler. However, we wanted to build SFF as an event that would appeal to a real diverse audience and I think we’re achieving that now. People seem to love that they can see a real cross section of acts of all genres across the weekend.

With the Strawberry Fields Festival being actually situated amongst strawberry fields, have you previously been chucking in punnets for the acts you’ve had on? (I would do for Major Look, big fan of the strawb’!)

Usually the picking season is over by the time the festival arrives but it’s started later this year. Of course we’d only lavish the artists with the best quality strawberries so if they’re still looking and tasting good come August there will be a box in each dressing room!

With the rest of the acts that you have on this year, how much have you guys been selfish as in to put on more so what you guys want? Do you think your musical tastes have suited the festival?

We have to be conscious that we’re not just booking acts that we like. We always try and gauge opinions outside of the team on any of the bigger name acts that we book. We’re not naive enough to think that people 10 or 15 years younger than us will like all of the same types of music that we do so we’re mindful of getting feedback from others before we go ahead and book anyone usually.

Everyone in the team has a passion for different types of music. Some of the guys are from a dance music background while others are massive rock fans which works well as we have a broad base of opinions. However, we always try to get input from people who are working in a particular scene about what is hot at a particular time. We like to think that our line up appeals to a wide range of people and we have something for everyone at SFF.

I feel the line-up is actually quite terrific with the blend of new up and coming artists as well as big names that are globally renowned. Is there anyone who you just haven’t been able to book?

Thanks! Our policy will always be to showcase brilliant up and coming acts. There is so much good music out there that people would not ordinarily get to see so festivals are definitely the best way to find out about new acts. We often hear from people that their favourite act of the festival was one of the bands or artists playing further down the bill. It’s no surprise that some of the acts we’ve had in previous years on the smaller stages have gone on to big things and are now playing at the likes of Glastonbury and Bestival.

There’s a few people that we’ve not been able to book but I won’t give away any names as we may well try to get them next year. Again it’s all about timing. For example we might try to book a certain act but their plans for the Summer don’t include doing many festivals or they may be particularly in demand and are exclusive to other bigger festivals that year. Or they may just want too much money!

Who was the most difficult to get onto the line-up?

We tried for a couple of years to get The Charlatans before we booked them for last years festival. We also did really well to get Kelis in 2011. She was only touring in the UK for a few weeks and we had to pull out a few stops to make it work but it was a big deal for us getting an international star down to the farm in only our second year.

The Call Of The Country   Interview with Mike Beck of Strawberry Fields Festival

So how has Hollywood star and Johnny Depp’s friend Stephen Graham got on board?

Well, Stephen is local to the area and has attended the festival for the last couple of years. He’s a big music fan and loved what we were doing in the area and a couple of the guys in the team knew his lovely wife Hannah so we asked him if he would be up for getting involved in this years festival. We’d already decided on the theme of ‘The Call of the Country‘ and thought he’d be perfect to act as our Honorary Lord! He jumped at the chance and came up to the farm (in between flying to New York to film Boardwalk Empire!) and did some promo shots for us which turned out brilliantly. We’ve used them on all of our promo materials this year.

We really appreciate that he gave his time to help us. You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer and more fun bloke, a true gent!

If you had to pick one day out of the three, which one would you choose for a day ticket?

It’s hard to pick as there are amazing things happening on each day but if I have to pick one day it has to be Saturday! It’s our first ever fancy dress day this year and it takes place on Saturday so we’re expecting the site to be full of tweeded up festival goers having the time of their lives!

How do you think the event has improved over the years and how is it likely to be better still, this year?

The event has improved significantly each year because every year is a massive learning curve for us. We take on board feedback from previous events and use it to make the festival better each time. Also as we get bigger and more people know about us, we get more and more people wanting to be involved in all areas of the event. The whole thing just grows every year.

We’ve definitely improved the amount of non-musical areas at the festival. If people are on site for a whole weekend it’s important to have plenty of things for them to see and do which is why we’ve brought in things such as the vintage fair, the poetry brothel, kids workshops and a whole host of other things to stimulate people if and when they want a break from the music.

The fun and weird and wonderful goings on at festivals are always the things that stick in peoples minds and we want to bring that element to SFF every year. Last year was a real improvement in this area and we’re confident that this year will be better still. There is a lot of very cool stuff lined up for this year. I don’t want to give too much away so you’ll have to see it for yourself!

And when is Strawberry Fields again?

Friday 9th – Sunday 11th August at Cattows Farm in Heather, Leicestershire – map details below – Adult Weekend tickets including 3 nights camping and parking are £85.00.

As you can tell, Mike of the Strawberry Fields Festival is quite a passionate guy about this event despite creating a bit of a monster between him and his friends!

If you go, you may even see a Hollywood star along with a barrage of tweed, a variety of costumes, and revelers enjoying the fresh countryside air and great entertainment of all styles.

Strawberry Fields Festival 2013: Friday 9th – Sunday 11th August at Cattows Farm in Heather, Leicestershire

Where is Strawberry Fields Festival 2013?

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Who’s on at Strawberry Fields?

The Call Of The Country   Interview with Mike Beck of Strawberry Fields Festival

Still want to know more about Strawberry Fields?


The Call Of The Country   Interview with Mike Beck of Strawberry Fields Festival


Online Media Executive at Funkatech
Breakspoll Award-Nominated Blogger. Author of Nero's exhaustive Twitter bio. Supports C.A.L.M. - http://www.thecalmzone.net/. Now sells jewellery online.
The Call Of The Country   Interview with Mike Beck of Strawberry Fields Festival
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