Every 12 months here at The Overflow. we look forward to our yearly ritual of visiting 'The Strawberry Fair' on Midsummer Common in Cambridge.
Last year (2010), after around 37 years of this regular event, suddenly the police refused to police the event and after a court battle between the organisers and Cambridge council/police, the licence was revoked and fair was cancelled last minute. Being the only fair of it's kind left in the country, like many other people we took this as a terrible blow.
The organisers vowed to fight on and get a licence secured for 2011 and a few months ago to our great delight, they announced that the licence for 2011 had now been granted and the Strwaberry Fair was to return once again. Over the coming months it emerged that the organisers had to virtually re-invent the fair in order to be granted their licence, which would of course mean massive changes to comply with the police and council demands (all of which involved more money of course).
Excited merely at the prospect of the fair being on, we headed off to Cambridge last saturday, looking forward to hearing some great music and coming home with some alternative trinkets from the hundreds of fantastic stalls that you just dont see anywhere else. I even died my hair red for the occasion, becoming a partial human Strawberry and getting into the spirit of this amazing event.
STRAWBERRY FAIR - 2011
Well... WHAT A DISSAPOINTMENT!!! At this point I would like to mark the passing of what was the last remaining example of 'The spirit of free festivals'. To anyone who remember's what the old free festivals were like back in the day, for you... like me, it has all become just a distant memory now. Although it changed with the times, the Strawberry Fair always flew the free festival flag, there was true spirit and a real cult following for all those years. Now suddenly, it's just a shadow of what it was.
STRAWBERRY FAIR - 2009
The event has turned into a carbon copy of every other money making festival. To be honest it was more like a family fun-day out, not exactly what you would expect. Before, there were around 7 or 8 stages and you could expect every kind of music, from local bands, alternative bands, rock, punk, dance, reggae, acoustic, you name it, you could hear it! It's now been reduced to 3 stages, one acoustic and two that had local bands. Most of which were either awful or un-memorable. There was also a massive arena where at one point they made a half hearted attempt at playing 'It's a knockout'! Later on, we also noticed a chap in a penguin suit, top hat and bow-tie, singing old crooner's songs, the likes of Frank Sinatra etc. Have they gone totally mad??? They may have done, but the public have'nt. There was practically no-one watching this guy, wheras before when all the bands used to play, you could barely move for the crowds!
STRAWBERRY FAIR 2007
That's just one example of how the fair has changed for the worst. Others include a seriously massive fence all the way round, something I never thought I'd see round such a beautiful area as the common. Police and security staff were absolutely everywhere breathing down everyones necks, was that really necessary? Prices on the stalls, (in particular the food stalls) were through the roof for tiny portions. Even the Ice cream van charged £4 for a decent sized ice cream, the likes of which would normally cost you a pound! I also payed £4 for a cheeseburger in a dry bun that fell apart after I had one bite!
2009 - KELTRIX PLAY LIVE
Good points... let me see... er, well it's still on I guess, that's something. Or is it?
Finally, these are not just our opinions, far from it. You only have to look at the Strawberry fair comments page on facebook. Hundreds of people are moaning about the things mentioned above, in particular the extortionate prices, lack of spirit, high fence, over-active security and lack of decent stalls (inless all these comments have been removed by now?) All I have left to say is that they did me two favours... I took money with me to have a good spend and hardly bought anything, so it's payed for another 2 outings since and I still have some left! It's also given me a head's up and saved me forking out for petrol for next year's Strawberry Fair, as like many others feel, they've finally killed it.
R.I.P. Strawberry Fair - Cambridge, England : 1974 - 2009