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“We’re more than a music festival - we’re an experience”

FOUNDERS: (from left:) Strawberries & Creem founders Preye Crooks and Chris Jammer

ORIGINALLY STARTING as an end of year celebration for the students of Cambridge, Strawberries & Creem has gone onto become one of the most exciting and musically-diverse festivals in the UK.

Attracting a slew of acts from J Hus to Skepta, the music festival has become known for its support for UK music and displaying the hottest names in rap, R&B, house and garage.

Ahead of this year’s event, we spoke to the founders of the festival, Chris Jammer and Preye Crooks, about music, diversity and what to expect this year.

How did the Strawberries & Creem Festival come about

Preye: There were five of us who went to Cambridge University doing different subjects and while studying there we found the club scene was quite limited. We decided to create a club night that providing another option for students to go too and we would get 200 students coming every Sunday and we’d sell it out.

At the end of our first year we had a brand going on and we thought let's put on a little garden party at the end of the year to celebrate and we sold 800 tickets that year. We booked David Rodigan and Shy FX and from there it really took off and transitioned from a growing garden party to a full fledged festival.

Q: How do you go about selecting the acts to perform each year?

Chris: It's quite a collaborative process within the team as everyone has an input and preferences on artists they feel passionately about. It's usually a case of us putting names forward and then working out how they can fit together within the budget.

Preye: We never try to put on a festival that is super cool and style over substance. We want it to be an eclectic mix of music we grew up hearing on the charts and enjoy now. So whether it’s 90s garage or music we’re listening to now, that structure has continued year on year and we pick artists who follow that criteria. But it's all organic.

Q: It's great to see Stefflon Don, Ms Dynamite, Snoochie Shy, Mahalia etc at the festival this year as many festivals in the past have been criticised for their lack of female acts despite the amount of female talent out there. Was making sure you had a equal balance of male to female acts something you thought about?

Chris: We are all about balance. We want the festival line up to showcase a variety of genres from a wide range of artists which we are personally fans of. We were conscious of the lack of female representation on line ups recently, but we would have come to this line up regardless.

Ms Dynamite has been on our hit list since we started back in 2014, Steff and Mahalia were due to have really big years this year, and Snoochie Shy is one of the most culturally important DJs on the scene right now. We wanted to celebrate talent and show that it doesn't have to be male dominated to be a great line up.

Preye: Also, our line up should represent our audience and we have a 60% female demographic of a multitude of races and our team is made up of a diverse background too. So for us it's a no brainer to have a line up that is representative of that.

Q: What are some of the highlights and challenges you've faced whilst running Strawberries & Creem?

Chris: A highlight for me was our 2017 show when we booked J Hus months in advance who turned out to be the man of the summer. It's a great feeling for us when we get a booking like this right. We've been lucky on a few occasions with Skepta in 2015 and Octavian last year. We don't work with massive budgets so we often have to make educated guesses with artists who we think have the potential to be bigger by the time the festival comes around.

Preye: For me it was J Hus too. Up until then, our numbers had been up to 5,000, which is good but when J Hus played and the capacity was 8,500 it was a very special moment for me.

It was the first time that I felt we made a really big jump from a garden party to a festival. That was a big moment for everyone in the team. As far as challenges, cash flow always has been just because we are an independent festival.

Q: There's so many quality music festivals - both new and established - coming out of the UK. What is it about Strawberries & Creem festival that you feel sets you apart?

Chris: I think we stand apart because we are part of our target market. We are a group of friends who love music and festivals and are just aiming to put on an event that we'd enjoy and have fun at.

Q: What can people expect from this year's festival?

Preye: That it’s going to be amazing! We are really focused on pushing something that none of the other festivals are doing. We want to create something for our community, by our community so this year you’ll see an eclectic selection of music and we really worked hard on the site and creating an experience. There will be installations, we’re working with different brands, so it’ll be like an adventure playground for 18-25 year olds.

Q: This year marks S&C 5th anniversary - where would you like to see the festival go in the next five years?

Chris: We are still growing year on year and I can't see that slowing up just yet. We want to grow whilst keeping our identity. We are more than just a festival though so you will start seeing Strawberries & Creem parties popping up throughout the year and also hopefully across the world.

Preye: I would love the festival to get to two days and doing 20,000-30,000 each day.

Q: What advice would you give to other students who are interested in pursuing a business venture in the midst of their studies?

Preye:: You’ve just got to put the effort in. We work 15-16 hour days and if we didn’t, the festival wouldn’t exist right now because it required that amount of hours, working, networking etc.

You've got to be really passionate about the work you're doing and you've got to make sure it's something that inspires you. Also, you are only as good as the people and team around you.

Strawberries & Creem takes place at Haggis Farm, Cambridge Saturday 15 June 2019

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