Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

The Secret Garden Party – Huntingdon, 22-25 July 2010

29 July 2010, 21:41 | Written by Gina Louise

Photo credit: Danny North

When it comes to festivals, preparation is often the key to success. Yet due to the misfortune of an absentee washing machine and the pressure of an urgency to hit the road, I ended up with a wardrobe consisting solely of three pairs of leggings, three bras, a lace leotard and a fur coat. Now, to the untrained eye (namely mine), it appeared these poorly packed provisions would not only prove impractical, but equal a bit of a fashion no-no. Little did I know that anything else would have rendered me overdressed for an occasion such as The Secret Garden Party. Upon arrival, a quick look around at the hoards of pirates, one-time transvestites and gimp suits, I knew I was among friends. As with most things in life, festivals make more sense in fancy dress. Even if the dress you’re wearing isn’t intentionally fancy.

After shoddily constructing a tent and realising in our haste I had forgotten the sleeping bag, we decided to explore the festival – explore being the word. Wandering around, you couldn’t merely look at the wonders on offer, you had to navigate your way through a wonderland of extravagant settings, plush chill out areas and hidey holes that you could lose yourself in for hours. The centre piece of this temporary hippy commune was a blimp complete with dance floor that later served as a starting point for the Saturday Finale; fire dancers lit the structure, sparking a chain reaction of fireworks and music, ending with the liberation of hundreds of Chinese lanterns.

As you may have gathered from this excitable account of The Secret Garden Party’s surroundings, this is a festival unlike any other – the first I’ve ever been to where the music didn’t matter. That being said, the music was pretty darned awesome. A mixture of folk and world music dominated the day scene, whilst a fight between the bass of rival dance tents emerged when the sun went down, as did a few of the more elaborate characters.

Most of our time was spent flitting between The Artful Badger stage, (a tent immersed deep in the woods, complete with rope spider webs, hammocks and a heady sound system) and Strummerville (a collection of Sofas around a roaring bonfire). Along the way we visited a number of other attractions that the weekend wouldn’t be complete without mentioning; the Helter Skelter, the Ferris Wheel and the Colla-Silly-Um for all your mud fighting needs.

As there was so much to do at SGP, there were sadly a fair few things I inevitably missed out upon. One of the aforementioned being the S&Mpathy tent, although this was perhaps best enjoyed from a distance. I lost count of the amount of curious teenagers I watched go in for a laugh and come out with a complex. There was also face painting, circus training, poetry workshops, conspiracy readings, burlesque sketching… you name it. It was like a game of consequences, pick any two random activities, mash them together and there you have it: the ultimate past time. Like chess boxing. Or kite wrestling.

So if you’re at a loose end when festival season rolls around next year and you find yourself thinking “where can I dress in a gimp suit, sit in a sauna and eat a fried breakfast whilst listening to some choral music”, then think no further. For a festival where anything goes, go to the Secret Garden Party. Because – at the risk of sounding like a tour guide that has lost their zest for the job – there really is something for everyone.

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