With the fifth year of Cambridge’s Strawberries & Creem Festival right around the corner, I caught up with model and festival co-founder, Chris Jammer, for an exclusive interview.
Strawberries & Creem, the up-and-coming independent festival returns to Cambridge’s Haggis Farm on Saturday 15th June with its signature line-up of house, hip-hop and R&B, and Noughties throwbacks. Cambridge University graduate Chris Jammer – the festival co-founder (who the eagle-eyed amongst you may recognise as a winner from E4’s series Shipwrecked ) – said the festival promises “the experience of a day out… not too far from London and it’s just all about positivity and good vibes and throwback fun really, while remaining credible and current with the music we’re putting on”. I investigate the reasons why Strawberries & Creem has become a firm fixture in the summer festival calendar.
Curated by a small team of just seven young creatives, the one day event stays true to its ethos: “celebrate heritage, champion future”. The team consists of a mix of Cambridge University graduates, Cambridge locals and Anglia Ruskin University graduates. Chris told me: “We’re a bunch of 25 year olds really just having fun and putting something on that we’d want to go to, rather than a big corporation trying to impose what they feel is needed. We’re just doing this for everyone else like us.” As such, the festival is a real celebration of good vibes and the hottest names in house, rap and R&B, and garage. Although having such a small team may initially seem like it would pose a challenge, Chris explained why this has been a strength in running Strawberries & Creem: “In the festival industry, most festivals are owned by the same sort of people, whereas we are independent so we’re coming in trying to prove our brand value and our trustworthiness. When we’re working with brands and new people, just getting across the vision of what you’re doing and actually if you’re capable of delivering that sort of stuff.” Strawberries & Creem always shows true support for UK music and this enthusiasm has been reciprocated by the industry.
The festival continues to go from strength to strength
Originally created five years ago as an end of year garden party celebration for the students of Cambridge, Strawberries & Creem now successfully provides the city with an exciting musical identity that continues to expand annually. Detailing the festival’s journey from just 1000 guests in its first year to becoming one of the UK’s fastest growing events, Chris explained:
“In Cambridge University, they have something called May Week. When everyone finishes exams, every College and association has their own party. The May Balls, especially, are quite privileged – they cost a lot of money to go to, got to dress in black-tie, that sort of thing; so we wanted to put an alternative in that space, delivering the music we wanted to listen to. Just challenge the make up of Cambridge University’s May Week a little bit. That started as a garden party but we called it a music festival and it was just really a stage with a few toilets and a burger van. From there, we’ve gone from strength to strength. Last year we did 10,000, this year we’re going to do 12,500.” Chris also added “This year, we’ve established ourselves enough that brands are coming to us; that’s a good sign of growth.”
With the 2019 edition set to be topped by MOBO winner Stefflon Don – whose meteoric rise has seen her gain international success with French Montana, Tory Lanez, Jeremih, Sean Paul and Ne-Yo collaborations – this year’s Strawberries & Creem promises a musically diverse line-up. The rapper will be joined by UK pioneer Ms Dynamite, who was honoured with an MBE last year for her services to music, which count breakthrough hit ‘Ms Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’ and the 2002 Mercury Prize. Chris’ excitement was palpable as he told me:
“I’m really looking forward to, first of all, having a female-led line-up, which was something that the festival industry has been criticised for before. Steff and Ms Dynamite were two acts that we’ve wanted to book for a very long time and it’s been timely for us that Ms. Dynamite started performing again and Steff’s still within budget, just about.”
Representing the festival’s signature throwback element and bringing carnival vibes to Cambridge, ‘Beautiful Girls’ hitmaker Sean Kingston will also headline, alongside special guest Kevin Lyttle, whose debut single ‘Turn Me On’ went on to become a club classic and one of dancehall’s best loved anthems. Fresh talent is represented in BBC Sound of 2019 nominee Mahalia, ‘079ME’ artist B Young plus West London group WSTRN. Dancehall collective, The Heatwave, will bring their formidable Hot Wuk party, while a strong UK garage contingent sees Artful Dodger, Heartless Crew, Shola Ama and Sweet Female Attitude confirmed. With a performance from viral sensation Jimothy Lacoste scheduled, the festival’s energy levels will remain high with sets from bass artist Flava D, as well as Heidi, Eli & Fur and wAFF, who head up Strawberries & Creem’s house and techno selectors.
A proven track record
Strawberries & Creem has become renowned for its authentic and feel-good line-ups that have seen a wealth of respected acts perform in recent years, including Wiley. Chris told me: “We’ve got it right probably the last four out of five years; we’ve got Skepta just before he dropped ‘Shutdown’, J Hus just before he dropped Common Sense, Kano just before he dropped Made in the Manor, so they’ve always come to this festival with new material that was already popping.” This year is no exception, with festival headliner Stefflon Don arriving with a plethora of songs in the charts at the moment.
You never know who might show up
Finally, Strawberries & Creem has become renowned for attracting a slew of surprise guests, with 2018 counting over 20 unannounced artists who performed on the day – including EO, AJ x Deno, Ambush Buzzworl and MC Versatile. Chris confirmed this, revealing: “There are a hell of a lot of special guests coming to Strawberries & Creem that aren’t on our line-up. Historically, we’ve been quite good at getting people to come out on sets. Last year, we had the likes of Abra Cadabra, NSG, BBK – Shorty and Frisco came out. There’s a lot to look forward to that isn’t actually on the line-up. Just look at people who are featured with some of our headliners. I won’t say any more than that.”
To be a part of a festival with a very bright future ahead, visit the Strawberries & Creem website – tickets start at just £45 and are available to buy now!