The Secret Garden Party set on the beautiful grounds of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire is a giant playground for adults. Nikhil Chinapa, his dear friend Oum Pradutt and I checked out the festival for a couple of days and the minute we stepped into the festival ground we were blown away by how incredibly beautiful and well planned this festival is.
The theme for this year was ‘CHILDISH THINGS’ with every acre of land designed to bring out the child in you. Giant toys were dotted around the site which also included a toy train attached to the top of The Great stage.
The heart and soul of the festival aren’t the bands or the games – it’s the people that come for it. Almost everyone takes the trouble to dress up, some in elaborate costumes, wear make up (men as well) and bring out their childish side. The festival fans embraced the theme this year pulled out all the stops with their attire. When you look around, you realise that at Secret Garden Party you don’t attend the festival, you are the festival.
We arrived on a sunny Thursday and checked in to the festival that was spread over a huge area of lush green fields, filled with vibrant summery colours. Note to self: you can never have too many flags at a festival. all shapes, sizes and colours. We were amazed to see the entire set up and the attention to detail in every single element.
The set up was magical in a way that to describe it, would cause the English language to fall over its own tongue and flail about hopelessly.
Kicking off the proceeding on Friday were England’s resident rain Gods (they had more rain that one day than they usually do in a month!) but we were prepared for it with our wellies. The rain turned the place into a mud wallow – but trust the Brits to walk around like it was a summer field, filled with daisies!! Nobody seemed to mind the weather too much – and neither did we! Friday was all about the daytime lineup that included Jack Garratt, Lianne La Havas, Kate Tempest, Darwin Deez and many more. As the evening drew in, Jungle hit the Great Stage and drew an impressive crowd to close day one. This is was by far the best start we had seen to a festival. It blew us away!
Sunshine was on the menu for saturday after 15 hours of continuous rain. Everyone was excited that the sun was out and I took some time exploring the huge garden. They had a few hidden stages (one had an entrance through a dog house!) and some magical stages in the woods too. Their art installations were the stuff of legends and enormous though had been devoted to fun, games, music, fun, food, fun, costumes and did we mention, fun? It was incredible. . . I couldn’t believe what was going on.
Saturday had the most exciting DJs that included Collosillium who provided the crowd with the much needed drum and bass fix. Maya Jane Coles hosted the Little Horror Stage and took on the decks under her alias Nocturnal Sunshine. Her set was deep, dark and transferred me to another world. The sound still lingers in my ears.
At the Colo-silly-um they staged a bunch of hilarious events with the Emcees egging people on to ever increasing levels of silliness! The Get High Jump (Umm, you don’t wanna know) Wax On Wax Off, Face On, Face Off (eating cake off your partner’s face) but the highlight of all was the Mud wrestling. (Mud, Mud, loads of Mud.) There is no better feeling than participating in a gooey, sticky, sloppy battle to stay upright. At the Secret Garden Party anything goes . . as long as it goes with mud.
The highlight of Sunday was the infamous paint fight on the main stage. The stage hosts plot the crowd up into people attending the festival for the first time (virgins) and those that had been here before (veterans). They drew a line down the middle, distributed packets of paint and let the virgins and veterans climb into each other! The result – a colourful, smiling horde of happy faces! This was one of the most memorable moments for me from the festival and I’m looking forward to fighting you virgins next year.
After all the fun, rain, mud, music and sunshine of the past 3 days, I wrapped up early on Sunday and caught up with my sleep before I was ready to hit the road again.
Final thoughts: if there’s one festival you’re going to attend next year, it’s got to be the SGP. If you aren’t soaked in happiness by the end of it, you’ve got some serious issues and I promise to pay for your therapy sessions afterwards.