Meredith is an outdoor camping festival in Australian bushland. The farmland is renamed the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre for the event; the natural amphitheatre itself is where the bands play. The surrounding areas – with names such as Spring Valley, North Pines, Mulwaverley, Tasmania, Kevin and Sanctuary Cove host bush camping. Most people sleep in tents or vans. Most also erect some kind of shelter or temporary lounging zones at their campsites in which to relax and muck about with their friends while not watching bands.
The festival started in 1991 as an end-of-year party for about 250 friends. It currently attracts an almost-instant sell-out of all 10,000 tickets.
The band-viewing area, the amphitheatre, is spectacular. There is only one stage at Meredith, which aims to get rid of the mad rushing between stages at other outdoor music festivals as well as concentrate people’s attention on the music. Views from around the amphitheatre are unimpeded. The stage is nestled in a grove of native Australian eucalypt trees.
Meredith prides itself on being non-commercial, which is a major point of difference between it and other outdoor music festivals. It is BYO alcohol only (in plastic or cans, not glass) – except for the Pink Flamingo Bar, open to those over 18 for cocktails. Meredith is not sponsored by anything other than itself. There is no commercial signage. There are no fires permitted, so punters in the main have to buy food, but the food on offer is cheap and good. There are few fast food outlets, for example. There is good coffee on sale. All in all it has a reputation for being laid-back, friendly and full of strange but good independent music from around the world.
There are several infamous added attractions at Meredith. The best-known is the wacky Meredith Gift, a nude running race. The name is taken from the Stawell Gift. The Meredith Gift has no rules except entrants must be nude. They vie for a trophy called The Golden Jocks. There is a sportsfield at the Meredith site with totem tennis sets and badminton courts. There are tai chi classes, regular appearances by an old-school brass band and the imposing Meredith Eye, which is a very large ferris wheel.
The land on which the festival takes place is owned by the Nolan family. The first festival, in 1991, attracted only 250 people. The last festival in 2006 attracted around 10,000. By 1994 bands were asking the festival’s organisers if they could be on the bill. Over the years artists to have played Meredith include Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cat Power, The Avalanches, Blackalicious, The Shins, Dirty Three, Augie March, Will Oldham, Andrew W.K., You Am I, The Presets, Datarock, The Gossip, Midlake, Wolfmother and many more.
Being outdoors, Meredith is at the mercy of the weather – in 2001 heavy rain throughout the month preceding the festival caused some issues with road surfaces. 2002 was hot and dry and dust swirled around the amphitheatre. 2004 saw two fierce, cyclonic storms batter the site, to be followed by electrical storms that framed the stage in an eerie, apocalyptic light.
Meredith Music Festival had complaints from previous years in regards to the distribution of tickets. Because of the festival's building popularity, there has been a surge of general public interest in the event, which left some of the long-time veterans and fanatics of the event without tickets for the upcoming event. 'Aunty Meredith' (the personifictation of Meredith Music Festival) has now devised a plan that, the festival organisers think, will be fair on both parties - the veterans and the newcomers to the festival.
The first allocation is distributed through a 'Subscriber Ticket Ballot', which allows half of the total allocation of tickets randomly distributed to 'subscribers' already on MMF's email list. Subscribers are notified in August and need to purchase their tickets within a set period of time.
The third allocation is distributed online.
Then...finally...despite all our best efforts, we assume there will still be some disappointed people out there. So...in an effort to mend some potential broken hearts...there will be a finite quantity of tickets issued by Aunty at her compete personal discretion. These will be allocated to some of those that she considers to be, for example, most passionate, or deserving, or unlucky, or having traveled the farthest, or been there the most times, etcetera. These can only be applied for after the rest of the tickets have sold out.
The Meredith Music Festival has also spawned a new festival: the Golden Plains Festival, held early in the year; on a long weekend in March (Labour Day weekend in some States)