The interpretation of what makes the best festival experience is something that is forever evolving and changing, and nowhere is that more prominent than at Pleasure Garden, Australia's immersive music and arts festival in St Kilda.
Having been involved in the infamous Shangri-La area of Glastonbury Festival in the UK, the team decided to project their vision into a fully fledged festival back in 2016, creating a weekend where the music is almost a distraction from the rest of the shenanigans.
This December they mark their third outing, and we caught up with them ahead of it to find out a bit more about what goes into creating such a unique festival experience.
You've obviously worked on the famous Shangri-La area at Glastonbury. But what sparked the idea to start Pleasure Garden?
After working across Australia and the UK Festival scene, we really wanted to raise the bar of festivals in Australia, and make them more focused on community and experience rather than being lineup driven.
Shangri-La is the most magical experience, it seamlessly merges an immersive theatrical wonderland, a diverse lineup and community involvement into one little wicked and cheeky field of wonder. We wanted to create and curate spaces like this for the music and arts loving community of Australia, so people not only attend but participate in the festivals. We wanted to allow them to become part of the theatre in these spaces, hence our focus on costume themes and interactive installations with a diverse music programme.
Creating a fully immersive experience seems like such a huge task. I'm interested to know what you use as your starting point? Is it a broad theme or topic and then you work out from that?
Our general mantra is Music, Art, Party but each stage and arena has its own unique character. Our House Party stage, for example, has its own music vibe and decor aesthetic, filled with share house couches, DJs playing from a destroyed squat cottage, and a working spa bath.
We develop a specific costume theme each year. Our first year was Flaura and Fauna of The Pleasure Garden, then the second year it was Birds of Paradise and this year we have landed on Wonderland.
How many people are there involved in putting it together? And how long does it take?
We have a full-time team that work year-round on the project across artist programming, partnerships and community development. In the 3-4 months before the festival our team swells massively, as we have a wicked team of designers, carpenters, scenic painters, machinery operators, and build crew pre-fabricating the stages and site decor.
When we move onsite we have a team of near 100 working for several days to build the playground. It's a fantastic group of talented individuals and we're lucky to have such a strong family vibe across the project.
Is that sense of community and giving a platform to – potentially – unknown creatives important to you?
Absolutely! One of the biggest focuses of Pleasure Garden is to get a wide mix of artists onboard, to (hopefully) allow people to discover new music and artists they have never heard of before. I think it's a great environment for music discovery.
Do you think people are becoming tired of the old fashioned style of music festivals that are just music stages and bars in a field?
Oh for sure! Just look at the mammoth festivals of the past few years that have fallen under the bus, so to speak. People want more engagement, they want more fun, they want more adventure, they want more inclusion, they also want to be part of something, not just a ticket.
A festival has to be multi-disciplinary, not just a few stages and bars in a field. We're hoping to re-frame this and get more people interested in good festivals once again!
The theme for Pleasure Garden this year is "Welcome to Wonderland", however, it has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland, right?
It can be whatever Wonderland you want it to be, it's not specifically Alice related. We're really excited about the wide breadth of this year's theme, and have a few surprises in store for the community. I have had some great messages to our facebook page suggesting costumes etc., so I think there will be some wicked fashions in the field.
The stakes are quite high though, as we give a golden ticket away to the best dressed, so that's a ticket to The Pleasure Garden for life!
Focusing on the music for a moment, you've got some great artists and bands touching down – The Temper Trap, Mad Professor... Is keeping your lineup diverse something you wanted to do? And if so, why?
Yes absolutely, diversity is the key. When you think about your friendship group, there's going to be a wide variety of music tastes, and The Pleasure Garden is designed to cater for the whole gang, keeping friends together.
And finally, what's the craziest thing we'll find at Pleasure Garden 2018?
I don't want to give away too many surprises, but I'd bring your bathers, there may or may not be a few opportunities to get wet 'n' wild.