Report by Cristina Boydell
What started 10 years ago as an invite-only arts and music festival, isn’t quite so secret anymore.
Set in a 10-acre landscaped garden in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, the annual independent Secret Garden Party, now known as SGP, is a four-day crazy garden–party-turned-festival.
Over 20,000 people join an eclectic musical mix, participating in fun activities and expressions of creativity. This year, the Secret Garden Party celebrated its 10th anniversary from July 19 to July 22, with an art and expression theme – Standing on Ceremony.
All “gardeners” (i.e. guests at the event) were encouraged to get involved and let go of their inhibitions, creating parties, ceremonies and rituals to bring everyone together. From opening parades and fire shows, to fireworks and love heart vapour trails created in the sky by planes, you could really feel everyone get into the spirit of the weekend.
Even the hard rain that fell on the Thursday, creating a messy and slippery mud bath on the fields, didn’t dampen the spirits of happy campers. Covered in mud, SGP goers wore typical festival gear, including Hunter wellington boots, cut-off shorts, summer dresses, bright colours, loud prints and fun accessories like feather earrings and flowered hairpieces.
What makes this event truly unique is the fancy dress costumes – animals, clowns, fairies, Mad Hatters and more – where anything and everything goes, with as little or as many clothes as you choose! Spotted amongst the crowds were tutus, coloured wigs, sequins, sparkles and lots of face paint.
Different stages suited various moods and music tastes. “The Great Stage” featured headliner bands such as Orbital, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Alabama Shakes, while new music could be found on an enchanting tree-house stage, “Where the Wild Things Are”, by the banks of the river. Rock, blues and soul music played at “The Crossroads” tent, where I interviewed London-based band Warehouse Republic. “The Temple of Boom” was the garden’s favourite place to dance from dubstep to drum and bass, techno and electro to breakbeats, or you could just escape to a next level of DJs at “Padoga”, a stage floating on the lake. Finally, the most iconic stage of all was made of four islands that were built up in the middle of the river, resulting in the “Lake Stage”. With a range of musical genres and existing venues to visit, SGP offered something for everyone.
Guests were also able to witness a very exciting fireworks show, and discover why the infamous paint fight is such a unique and highly anticipated part of SGP (here, colourful bursts of paint are blasted into the sky and thrown across the hundreds of people participating by the great stage).
One of the crowd’s favourite activities and most frequented spots was grooving to party tunes at the “The Dance Off”, which featured dance battles and group games in an entertaining boxing ring.
Overall, this July weekend was a magical time of camping, dressing up, dancing, games, mud, sun and music that felt like a dream. It reminded us of a real life Fern Gulley – a magical rainforest where anything is possible.
SGP is unlike anything most people have ever experienced and it’s certainly a weekend we will never forget! Until next year…
At the Secret Garden Party