I first went to Secret Garden Party in 2012. I didn’t know much about it, but my best friend Katey suggested we go as she’d heard great things, and it was a fallow year for Glastonbury due to the London Olympic Games so I was open to trying new festivals. I hardly knew any of the bands on the line up, but I did know that SGP was famous for its atmosphere, its art, and its lake.
We travelled up that sunny July just the three of us; myself, Katey and her friend Clare. There are sadly no photos from this festival as we relied on Katey’s camera, which she dropped in the lake on the last day! We still have the memories though, and it was so fantastic we’ve returned 3 more times since.
2017 will be the last ever SGP!
HEAD GARDENER – “Whilst I have always known I was going to have to write this, it still feels strange. We have been on a long journey but I concede to the infamous phrase that ‘All good things must come to an end’, and so it is, I announce today that this summer will host the last Secret Garden Party as we all know it. […]
15 years ago I started out with a set of ideas as to what makes a good party and the most perfect venue for it. But with no set idea of what the destination was for this venture the ‘festival’ was, at that time, the perfect medium through which to explore these ideas.
Much has changed since that first Garden Party, when there was nothing else like it in the UK: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had yet to be invented and no one knew what a boutique festival was, let alone Glamping.
Since then, with you always at the heart of it, The Garden Party has defined and redefined outdoor events in the UK; we have all done this together as a collective of truly independent outsiders.”
This year will see Secret Garden Party come to an end. The announcement came as a surprise to me and many others, and I will be truly sad to see it go. I’m writing this blog, not quite as a review, but more as an enabling tool if you are on the fence about buying a ticket.
The main thing to know about SGP is: it is bonkers. There is so much fancy dress, and they put a lot of effort into the little things. You can learn to be a mermaid, bounce naked on a trampoline, and race your friends on space hoppers around an assault course to name but a few activities! They even have a venue called the Collo-silly-um, which is run by Bearded Kitten, and hosts games in the daytime such as (Naked) Mud Wrestling, Get Drunk High Jump and Who’s Uranus Is It Anyway. In the evening it becomes a stage hosting incredible DJs. Stanton Warriors in 2016 were a highlight!
Everything is interactive at SGP, so don’t be surprised if you’re dragged up into a makeshift wedding or asked to participate in sock wrestling. I’ve been sprayed with glitter and taught how to dance the samba in front of a lot of people! Be up for it, and you will have a lot of fun. Crazy outfits are encouraged almost to the point of being mandatory!
The Great Stage
The Great Stage is on the edge of the lake, and it’s here you’ll see the biggest acts and really appreciate the beauty of your surroundings! The ground gently slopes towards the stage but further back there’s a hill where you can sit and watch, and the view from here is stunning. I haven’t found anything quite like it at other festivals.
On the Saturday evening comes the Spectacle; a huge lights, fireworks and pyrotechnics show that matches the theme. Last year’s theme was “The Gardeners Guide to the Galaxy” and the Spectacle was out of this world… I’ve found a video on YouTube that shows it off quite nicely:
Everyone gathers on the hill to watch the Spectacle, and there’s such a sense of wonder and unity as we are all wowed by it’s extravagance. It’s the defining moment of the festival, and not to be missed!
On the Sunday afternoon the Great Stage plays host to the annual Paint Fight. It’s definitely worth bringing a set of clothes you are happy to get ruined as this is one of my festival highlights. The official paint team wiggle through the crowd carrying buckets of powder paint in little bags. The paint is distributed, then the Head Gardener gives a speech which ends in a countdown, and paint will fly! Even if you plan to just watch I’d suggest wearing something that isn’t precious as the paint travels in the wind and even people at the back tend to get involved, by choice or not!
The other great attraction of SGP is the lake itself. A beautiful haven, and the best part is they have a swimming area and boats you can borrow to explore! On a hot year it’s always fantastic to be able to go for a swim and cool off, however in 2016 it was so warm that poisonous algae had grown in the lake meaning we weren’t allowed to play on it. Hopefully they’ll find a way to counter this if it’s another sunny year in 2017! They also always have a lake stage with DJ acts performing Thursday – Saturday, and ‘ferries’ to take you out there. On the Sunday night, they have ‘The Big Burn’, where the lake stage is set alight.
There is so much more to discover at Secret Garden Party, it’s one festival that’s so difficult to describe. It’s a playground for adults, and the music is only a small part of what makes it. I’ll finish this post with a few more photos from my times there, and a quote from my best friend about what makes it unmissable for her. It’s sad that this will be the final party of secretly gardening, and all I can honestly say is you won’t want to miss it.
Buy your tickets here! You won’t regret it!
Katey – SGP has a special place in my heart. I had only been to a few festivals (Reading, Beach Break, Leeds etc) before I came here but Secret Garden Party is the first festival where I found the magic of essentially creating a playground for adults and not just purely for the music; a place of hedonism.
It’s why I have now been 5 years in a row – the little details that went into creating such a world – the secret stages, hot tub antics, the fashion, the insane activities in the Collo-Silly-Um, the annual rituals of the Saturday burning of the Lake Stage and the Sunday colourful mess that was the Paint Fight, plus the incredible art installations and of course the artists, actors and performers combined just made it special. A beautiful hippie playground that just spoke to me. It wasn’t just another festival, it was a new way of life.
All photos either taken by me, or from the Secret Garden Party gallery website. If you’re STILL on the fence even after reading this, I suggest you take a good look through that gallery. You’ll see what an incredible place this festival is!