Strawberry Fair 2022 was held in Cambridge for the first time in two years last SaturdayPhoto by Aaron Syposz with permission for Varsity

To the untrained eye of a first-year student at Cambridge University, the live music scene in this city can initially seem a little staid. Sure, this is the place that brought us Pink Floyd and Tom Robinson, but a student would be forgiven for thinking that the local scene they’re engaging in today consists of nothing more than college choirs and orchestras. Of course, they’d be wrong and the annual Strawberry Fair on Midsummer Common is perhaps the best way to set them straight.

“An all-day celebration of the thriving grassroots cultural scene in Cambridge”

“By the people of Cambridge, for the people of Cambridge”, this long-running, free music event returned after a two-year hiatus from the physical world this Saturday 11 June. Marshalled by local volunteers and completely composed of local artists, Strawberry Fair 2022 was an all-day celebration of the thriving grassroots cultural scene in Cambridge and its surrounding areas. Acting as a family-friendly space during the day with an enormous play area at its rear, it was in the evening that the event began to acquire more of a party atmosphere. Standing at the “pink gate” entrance just across from Jesus College at around 8pm, I was presented with a view over a generous variety of stages of different shapes and sizes, each with their own character, line-up and charm. In between these focal points, the field brimmed with bars, food stalls and purveyors of other trinkets: I spied a stall selling jewellery and another offering henna tattoos amongst many others. The event just seemed to keep going – the spectacle was certainly a far cry from the rather oppressive atmosphere felt in many Cambridge colleges over the past few weeks.

Upon entering the fair, numerous smaller stages, tucked around corners or lacking the light show of some of the bigger offerings, began to reveal themselves. After passing by a bar at the far end of the site and forgoing the ever-so-Cambridge £6 beer, I came across the stage operated by Cambridge 105 Radio, a community radio station headquartered on Gwydir Street, not far from ARU’s campus. It was quieter than the other, more packed, stages elsewhere around the event, but boasted some notable musical highlights. Just after 9pm, Shambertans, a local indie pop band formed in 2019, took to the stage. As well as playing material from their new EP, Symptoms of the Fear, they also treated us to their breezy, summery title “Sun in Your Eyes”, produced in collaboration with fellow local band Fred’s House for their 2020 EP, Wallflower. By the end of the set, a larger crowd had gathered round this rather small stage, happily dancing with beers in hand as the sun set.

The Routine's official music video for "Come Knocking At My Bedroom Door"YouTube / The Routine (

“It was a reminder of the important opportunities events such as Strawberry Fair offer”

Following these upbeat guitar chords, I wandered over to another stage, the Portland Ballroom, watched over by a cheerful marshal who inexplicably had a lightbulb on his head. “Have you had an idea?” one man shouted at him. It certainly proved to be a good idea to visit this particular stage, where The Mojo Slide, to conclude their set, performed an excellent cover of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough”. With the sun now set, rendering the rather grand lighting rigs of the Love Rebels stage all the more impressive, I made my way over to the Wigwam, where The Routine were playing their guitar-heavy, somewhat grungey material. “Come Knocking At My Bedroom Doorwas an undoubted crowd pleaser, featuring the addictive chorus so necessary for eventual mainstream success. This small band were particularly keen to interact with their audience, specifically calling out to those listening who hadn’t heard them before. It was a reminder of the important opportunities events such as Strawberry Fair offer the artists who take part – opportunities which have been particularly hard to come by over the last few years.


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Things began to wrap up at about 11pm on Midsummer Common, an area which had been transformed for the first time since 2019 into a celebration of the vast and diverse music on offer in Cambridge and its surroundings. Strawberry Fair 2022 was an event which encompassed pop and indie, funk and grunge, punk and rap – as well as serving as a place to shop for some jewellery. It was a joyous occasion, a place for the residents of this city to express themselves freely. No doubt, it marks the start of what will be a rich cultural summer here in Cambridge, as we begin to leave the dark days of the pandemic behind and learn to connect through live music once again.

Full listings of bands performing at Strawberry Fair 2022 are available on the event’s website.