Elements Festival is one of Queensland's fastest-growing music and arts events, attracting thousands of 'Elementals' to each of its evolutions.
From 16-19 December 2021
, the festival will be going large for its fifth birthday, and though there's much to celebrate, getting to this point has been a mammoth undertaking for its organisers, Trent Stewart and David Heron.
Though this is the second year in a row the festival has been postponed due to pandemic restrictions, they have so far managed to avoid cancellation.
Managing this has involved a doubling of the workload in order to ensure the event is COVID-Safe, but Trent still feels that good fortune has a lot to do with it.
"We had our October festival in December last year, and our new winter festival went ahead as scheduled in June. Both events slotted perfectly into place between lockdowns, which felt like fate or maybe just incredible good luck."
Considering how many events have been cancelled over the last year and a half, it's easy to see why the Elements crew feel so fortunate.
In the midst of all the upheaval we've been collectively going through, Trent says Elements aims to be a safe haven where people of all ages, ethnicities, abilities, and backgrounds can find a sense of belonging and acceptance.
"We have family and quiet camping areas, activities, workshops, and playgroups for kids, and each year, we listen to and act on feedback to ensure we're able to cater to the unique needs of everyone who wishes to be part of the tribe."
This diversity is a big part of what creates the atmosphere at Elements. "There's something grounding about having children and elders, and people from all walks of life sharing a space together. We're seeing that it encourages people to take care of themselves and their friends more, and we hope to see this trend continue."
Self-care at music festivals is something the Elements team, and the industry in general, have been promoting for some time.
"Although we are a dance music festival, that's certainly not the only thing we do. There are so many cultural and educational components to the festival and so many other art forms being explored."
The beauty of Elements (and part of the inspiration behind its name) is that all these elements play in the same space, enhancing and bouncing off each other in endless ripples of inspiration that elevate every moment you spend within the festival grounds.
There's live painting at the stages where artists can draw inspiration and energy from the crowd and the music; and VJs, pyrotechnics operators, and lighting experts who work with the musicians, creating a synaesthetic experience in which music hits you not just through your ears but through every sense.
In such a space, you'd have to work hard to have a bad time. Indeed, one of Trent's favourite aspects of organising the festival is hearing stories from attendees about the life-changing moments they've had at Elements.
"I just received a message the other day from a couple who met at the first Elements Festival five years ago and their child was conceived at the last Elements. It's beautiful but it's not at all unique – and that's a good thing! So many love stories are birthed at music festivals."
In life, we often fall into a pattern of not interacting with strangers unless we're transacting with them.
While there's nothing wrong with slipping into the headphone/ smartphone bubble from time to time, festivals like Elements give you a chance to drop those barriers and connect with people in a whole new way.
As Trent explains: "Sometimes, you don't even need the conversation. Often it's just a simple connection throughout the dance floor; that feeling of being united, doing the same thing together.
"Those simple exchanged smiles are often enough to enrich you and uplift your spirit."
Although it's always had this spirit of connection, Elements has evolved greatly over its five years on the scene, and Trent says this evolution will continue.
"Elements is slowly coming of age and as we are growing into our boots, we're developing a personality."
One of the biggest aspects of the festival's evolution this year is the huge step up it's taking on the eco-friendly front.
At the Winter Solstice event in June, Elements introduced reusable dishware and utensils made from sustainable materials. These were distributed among stallholders, with rewash stations set up to sterilise them for reuse.
Around 700 zero-waste meals were provided thanks to this initiative, saving more than 1,000 items of packaging from going into waste processing at that festival alone.
For the next event, Trent says they'll be ramping up further with more reusable dishes provided and more stallholders getting involved. "We're also happy to see the site and the campgrounds being left in better and better condition each time [after the festival is staged].
"We've got a team of eco-warriors who go from camp to camp as people are setting up, handing out bin bags and butt bins and chatting to people about our sustainable practices, what they can do with their rubbish, how to sort it, and where they can leave it if they can't take it with them."
Perhaps the most exciting news for attendees in 2021 is this will be the first event that takes advantage of the full, expanded grounds. "This will be our fifth year, and we've now grown to our full size.
"Every year, the space will be filled differently, but we've now brought in all the natural elements and spread out into the landscape we want to occupy."
For budding musicians, performers, and artists, the most exciting news is the Elements crew is keen to support your growth. "Elements is always striving to give opportunities to up-and-comers who deserve it.
"Every event we host has new faces on the line-up." Though Trent warns there's a caveat. "We look for artists who are a living, breathing testament of their application. We aren't selecting hobby artists in any field."
Kris Wylie – aka Metet – played for the first time at Elements Festival 2020 and confirmed the vibe was supportive from start to finish.
"The application process was very professional, they have a quick-fill template for applying to music festivals which I have noticed many of the larger festivals use.
"The team responded quite quickly to my application, and in the past, if you don't make it in they offer you discounted tickets for your application efforts."
With a lot of time invested in the way the music flows from hour to hour and stage to stage, Kris felt right at home in the spot carved out for him at Love Camp. "The crew who were running the stage were super helpful and happy to sort me out if I needed anything.
"I had a large group of my friends turn up to watch me play on the Saturday morning; sun was out, heaps of smiling faces old and new."
This sense of being welcomed in and cared for is something Trent says they aim to foster with every attendee and contributor. This intention is set during the festival's unique opening and closing shows, which are informed by an expansive spectrum of cultural influences.
Though many performers collaborate to create these spectacular events, contributions from the Kabi Kabi/ Gubbi Gubbi and Jinibara people form the nucleus around which all other elements revolve.
"We never want to infringe in any way shape or form with the Indigenous approach to the Welcome to Country, so they take full control over that aspect of the opening ceremony," Trent says.
"However, when we involve First Nation people in the opening show, we combine traditional dance with a contemporary infusion. This is something we've been working towards for some time, and we are so thankful for every aspect the Indigenous community chooses to share with our attendees."Elements Festival takes place at Landcruiser Park (Sunshine Coast) 16-19 December.