In just three short years, Wonderfruit has evolved to become one of the most contemporary, international, inspirational and sustainable art, food and music festivals in Asia.
For four days, “Fruiters” are exposed to the world’s best contemporary architectural art designs, gourmet food from star chefs, world music from international DJs and entertainers, talks by leading scientists, filmmakers and activists and non-stop round the clock partying. And when the partying needs to rest, Fruiters can collapse in luxury tents in the fully serviced glamping village whenever the need arises while the kids play and explore the vast playgrounds.
Last year I was invited to go with a group to experience everything that Wonderfruit had to offer and I was astounded by what founder, Pete Pranitan Phornprapha, had achieved in such a short space of time. The logistics alone are hard to quantify and his small team of dedicated individuals pulled it off so seamlessly I was eager to book for the following year. I became friends with Pete during that experience and this year he invited me to be a guest speaker in The Rainforest Pavilion to talk about plastic and my experience making the feature documentary film A Plastic Ocean. I didn’t have to think about the invitation long before accepting.
I knew that the gains made at the last festival would be even bigger this year and I wanted to be a part of this new wave of sustainable, thoughtful, experiential entertainment philosophy. Pete also invited me to screen the film on the main stage every night from 6-8pm. Seeing the film on the big, purpose-built screen and hearing it reverberate across the paddock through the massive, loud, rock speaker system certainly took it to a new level.
Everything about Wonderfruit is intriguing, from the garden of fruit and vegetables Pete grows organically in the centre of the massive paddocks that are home to the festival “experience”, to the natural grass water course filtration system which provides drinkable water for all. When I spotted Pete on the Friday, doing his daily rounds seeing friends, paying homage to the entertainers, keeping a watchful eye on operations, with his natural cotton swag over his shoulder and his colourful shirt barely covering his chest, I asked him where the name Wonderfuit came from. He paused for a second before saying: “There’s actually no meaning to it. It just came about, sounded good, so we stuck with it.”
The evolution of the festival has been far more direct, although Pete’s “collection” of people, architecture, objects, and sustainable ideas, all seem to have come from his world travels and ability to draw stories and ideas from everyone he meets. It would be easy to pass Wonderfuit off as a visual manifestation of what’s going on inside his head and what he’d like to see more of on the planet, but the truth is he likes to collaborate and he draws in colourful and knowledgable experts in different fields to help him realise his dreams.
The musical and entertainment integrity of the festival is a direct result of the festival’s director, Jason Swamy, (another friend from Hong Kong) who’s the name behind Burning Man’s Robot Heart and Future Forward. What also struck me most about Wonderfruit was the level of sustainable practices that the organisers have engaged. At first, I was annoyed by the plastic cups I was seeing being served at the beverage stands, but Pete explained to me that not only were the cups plant-based, but he had engaged a company to develop a system of collection and composting specifically catering to the needs of Wonderfruit, and developed in Thailand. Everywhere one walks, there are systems in place to handle the 6,000 people who swarm for the event with such ease that often you forget how many people are actually attending. And unlike most festivals I’ve attended, there are no queues for food or drink, plenty of shaded locations to relax when the sun or heat becomes overwhelming and even the portaloos are plentiful, hygienic, easy to find and well maintained. I had several favourite locations, but the most giving and most dynamic was the Rainforest Pavilion, an art instillation designed by Alex Joy inside architect Duangrit Bunnag’s interpretation of a tropical rainforest pavilion, complete with soundscapes recorded in the Sumatrand and Thai rainforests. This space was the venue for talks and workshops during the day and rocking parties at night. And incredibly, all activities at the Rainforest Pavilion raised funds to go towards purchasing rainforest land for permanent conservation. It was a pleasure to talk to the large crowd in such a stimulating environment and to sit and hear other speakers, such as shark expert Andy Cornish, and eco engines Kevin Kumala.
I’ve been so impressed by this event I’m now discussing with Pete how we can collaborate on environmental issues going forward. If you haven’t been, put it on your calendar. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your background is, there are activities for everyone during the day, including your yappers (dogs) and the adult rating goes up as the night draws on. I will see you all there in December this year.