Secret Garden Party is a festival for those who like to say goodbye to the yellow brick road, those who relish the journey, not the emerald city at the end. And what a journey it was. This year’s party was a kaleidoscope of entertainment, with almost too much to choose from.
Secret Garden Party’s emerald city wasn’t found at the end of the yellow brick road, instead it sat in the middle of the Great Lake – the centrepiece of the party – which came burning down on the last night. Mill Hill Field in Abbots Ripton was full of sights to behold, decorated with comedic artworks, glory-hole boxes for hugs, large art installations made from hay, plus many many more. Take the Orgasmatree for example, artist Thomas Sale provided us a place to reflect and find shelter from festival life (and the sweltering heat) during the day, but at night, the playful installation became a social spot for gardeners to congregate.
Known for its variety of musical acts, Secret Garden Party certainly didn’t disappoint. Little Dragon, Public Enemy, Clean Bandit and Martha Reeves and the Vandella’s all brought the crowds to The Great Stage. Public Enemy’s headline performance on Saturday night took us back to the 80’s and the spectacular fireworks display was the cherry on top of a retro-tastic night. Emerging talent was presented at the Where The Wild Things Are, the stage that in years past gave us the likes of Florence & The Machine, The XX and Lykke Li, so if history is to repeat itself take note of acts such as Mausi, Kate Boy and Beech. Mausi, an electronic pop group had the crowd moving and shaking in front of the wooden vine clad stage, so much so that everyone who walked by, us included, had to stop and join in the party.
Dance music was heralded by the Temple of Boom, a large space age barn that most of the time couldn’t hold its audience. When Kidnap Kid took to the stage, everyone spilled out over the hills and far far away, dancing like there was no tomorrow. Tucked away in the corner of the lake stood The Pagoda Stage – a place to dance to some of the finest DJ’s around while stomping your feet inches above the water. Although the queue was long, the tracks that the likes of Huxley, T. Williams, Richy Ahmed and Citizen dropped were pumping and had many a passer by head-bopping along. The Drop celebrated the very best of underground house and techno. Set in a natural hollow, DJ’s such as Waifs & Strays, Route 94, Ben Pearce and Skream set the beats and had us dancing till sunrise, stumbling back to camp just as the rest of the festivalgoers woke for breakfast.
One musical playground that had many gardeners all a fluster was the Labyrinth. As the party’s best kept secret, this hidden gem of a dancefloor was a magical yet eerie setting. Only here would you find the musical delights of Maxxi Soundsystem, a photo-booth for those ultimate festival selfies and the best place to play hide and seek. Ever. The other wooded bash happened in the Artful Badger Woods, set in the darkest corner of the garden. Hosted by the Horned God of nature, Pan and his minion the Badger Shaman, we danced to electro disco funk, swing and psychedelic grooves. It was here, nestled between the trees, that we discovered the Green Fairy and her delicious Pernod Absinthe Bar.
The Beaded Space Pioneers journeyed back from the year 2017 to give us the weirdest and gravity defying games the universe has to offer at the Collosillyum. It was here that Chase & Status played their secret special guest performance and also where we discovered the ET Phone Homo bar, with out of this world cabaret, Chewbacca in a bikini and dancing girls with more than just two breasts. The voguing, dance routines and of course the drag queens, all brought an intergalactic feeling to the term gay bar.
Festivals are known to be a place to loose yourself, your inhibitions and sometimes even your mind. However, the garden gave us the chance to find them again, by providing us with an exciting array of intriguing talks and debates from the rarest of renegade academics. The Forum hosted talks and workshops such as The Misfits’ Create Your Own Pop-Up Cult, Charlie Morley’s How Lucid Dreaming Can Change The World and Danny Kushlick’s What Will The World Look Like When We Legalise Drugs. For lovers of Science, the Guerila Science tent taught us that riotous rebellion is something to be championed. Zoe Cormier’s Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll talk drew in the crowds, learning about the hedonism of science and the science of hedonism. It was here that we were shown proof that the vagina really is a force to be reckoned with.
Showers are the ultimate festival conundrum. The garden however, offered many ways to feel fresh again. Many went to bathe under the sky, including a certain Prince Harry you might know, and spent two blissful hours relaxing in luxury hot tubs. The affordable experience began with a glass of sparkling wine and ended with either a Finnish sauna or extra hot shower, and of course in true Secret Garden style, no swimwear or clothes were allowed. For those who weren’t into some R&R in a hot tub, jumping into the lake was the other alternative.
We were warned that this was a serious party and that it was indeed. One that needs some serious recovery time. Well, we do have a year till the next one.
Early bird tickets for SGP 2015 are on sale now.