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07.01.2016
Secret garden Party returned to Abbots Ripton in Cambridgeshire to celebrate its decade anniversary last weekend. The organisers seem to have taken the extra pressure in their stride though - with weird, wonderful and downright spectacular goings on ready surprise lucky ticket holders as soon as they are through the gates. Over the weekend, numerous punters can be seen indulging in the kind of hedonism that could be considered a little subversive to be part of the famous family-friendly musical, but the magic is certainly present right from the start.
Upon entering the festival through the pedestrian gate at the foot of the site, a world of enchanting fixtures can be sampled before any of the main stages are underway. However, those wanting more of a cool off dona€™t have far to go far, with inflatable water slides cascading down the mound in the centre of the field and the shade of the birch trees that populate the intriguing Badger Woods at the north side of the festival.
On the Great Stage, by far the largest on site, all-girl blues-rock duo Deap Vally can be heard coercing some eager revellers to bring out the air guitars before the first afternoon is even up. A stonea€™s throw from the main stage is the Where the Wild Things Are field, which plays host to a foliage-decorated performance area, where (during the festivala€™s opening moments) the onlookers would rather sparsely lounge than crush up to the front barriers. Irish indie outfit Southern are an apt booking for the stage following the release of their single a€?Where the Wild Area€™ - a track that receives a rapturous reception to boot. The following performance comes from the complete other end of the scale thanks to Brixton rabble-rousers and all round chaos machines Fat White Family. Over at the Crossroads tent in the middle of the site, another of the most promising guitar bands in the UK, Telegram, get off to a false start and have to leave the stage because of technical problems. Switching things up completely, proceedings then get a bit more beat-heavy with the Great Stagea€™s headliners Little Dragon. The second morning of the festival plays host to heat that some appear to be finding unbearable. But those in the know appear to be taking the sweltering edge off in the best way possible, with a DJ set under the shade of the Temple of Boom tent courtesy of dub legend Mad Professor. Such alternatives couldna€™t be further from the minds of audience who have packed out the Great Stage for soulful trip-hoppers Morcheeba. After an atmospheric show from Submotion Orchestra - which incorporates soul, R&B and dubstep - one of the most spectacular moments of the weekend comes just before Saturday headliners Public Enemy. With the audience geed up to boiling point, it is then time for Flavor Flav and Chuck D to prove whether theya€™ve still got it. Classics like a€?Bring the Noisea€™ and a€?Dona€™t Believe the Hypea€™ offer memorable moments. Over at the Temple of Boom, there is a swelling crowd waiting for what proves to be the biggest draw of the weekend.
After an early hours storm gets many expecting a cooler climate for the finale, their suspicions prove unfounded.
Another extra that must take a significant slice from the organisersa€™ budget is Sunday afternoona€™s a€?Paint Fighta€™. Inevitably, a huge section launch their paint instantly, making the barrage of confetti and dry-ice that follows a little off-kilter.
Security guards can be seen frantically pulling attendees out of the lake as they stray into undesignated areas, but the house-infused soundtrack of the pier-style stage in the centre is in no such danger of having the fun toned down. The final evening plays host to an undercard who is possibly one of the biggest legends ever to grace the Great Stage. Final headliners Fat Freddya€™s Drop arrive on stage late, but only enhance the party atmosphere. All weekend, the adjacent lake has held a centrepiece resembling the Wizard of Oza€™s a€?Emerald Citya€™.
Bauer Radio, 3 South Avenue, Clydebank Business Park, Clydebank, G81 2RX.Registered in Scotland company number SC131754. The Secret Garden Party is the stuff of legends; situated in the vast, idyllic grounds of a Georgian farmhouse, this festival is a creative dreamscape that helps office workers remove themselves from droning computers, and enables everyone to act as crazily as they please.
Unlike most festivals, SGP sells a large amount of its tickets long before the headline acts are even announced. Not only is there a great variety of music (Folk, Reggae, Dance, World, and Rock), there is also a plethora of once in a lifetime experiences and activities.
With the number of attendees growing each year, there must be something that attracts the new audiences.


At the mainstream music festivals, there seems to be a pattern, where, between acts attendees will return to their tent to drink copious amounts of cheap booze prior to returning to the festival ground, then repeat. However, we must look into the music, as it is still a key (and enticing) part of the festival; headlining musicians include Fat Freddy’s Drop, Little Dragon, and Public Enemy.
With over 350 acts, with genres ranging from Danish electro-artist MO playing in the Temple of Boom, to the ‘cosmic folk’ act of Zervas & Pepper at the (famous) Where the Wild Things Are stage, falling into a world of new and interesting genres has never been easier.
The 11 stages host a variety of acts and atmospheres that suit all audiences, and introduce everyone to the new genres: ranging from acoustic, to dance, to debates, every ‘gardener’ has a different experience. The festival consists of a beautiful blend of craziness and tranquillity, with a constant underlying theme of creativity- which all coincides quite nicely with my summer plans; after a heavy year of work, and work, summer is my time to let go and run through fields barefoot. Each year, the festival has a theme which helps the audience ease into the aesthetics of the area. To those of you unfamiliar with the Artful Badgers, they are a group most famous for their animal mask clad performers.
Another attractive feature about the Secret Garden Party is their ethical ethos; past visitors have spoken of the solar powered showers, cycle powered blenders and their urging to recycle where possible. As with all the dress up festivals, there is also a parade; a brass band wielding, glitter-bomb of a parade. For those who aren’t really into the camping scene, there’s a boutique experience for a bit more money.
It’s rather easy to see why anyone would want to go; creativity oozes from every orifice of the Secret Garden Party and unique experiences are everywhere.
The Secret Garden Party takes places at Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire from Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th July 2014. Having grown to be bigger and better every year since its inaugural outing, what started as a reaction to the monotony and predictability of mainstream festivals is now one of the most anticipated events of the summer calendar. This year they went for a Wizard of Oz-themed vibe, or more specifically a€?Goodbye Yellow Brick Roada€™. The Sanctuary offers an instant wind-down for those who want to keep their psyche on the level, although the sauna and hot tubs dona€™t quite prove as popular as expected amid a weekend that hosts some of the most searing temperatures of the summer.
Since day once, Secret Garden Party has strived to curate line-ups that might raise the odd eyebrow (and for a few maybe even underwhelm), but for vibrancy and genre-hopping unpredictability, there arena€™t many that can better it.
Perhaps suited better to the rumbling confines of a sweaty tent than an open air arena, but all look entertained nonetheless.
The sound is a little clean compared to the best of their blues-rock contemporaries, but all in attendance toe-tap their way through the set. With antics that enthral and offend in equal measure, the sextet of wiry former squatters are nothing short of exhilarating. But they return to an audience that - although numerically underwhelming - is determined to bring the house down.
The Swedish dance-pop band have experienced a gradual rise to prominence hat has been helped in no small part by collaborations with the likes of DJ Shadow and SBTRKT.
The smatterings of a€?posh-washa€™ showers might imply more about the eventa€™s socio-demographic than its concern for hygiene, as some attendees can be seen cooling off by taking a dip in the decidedly murky water of the lake.
The veteran instantly has the crowd in the palm of his hand and brings out a host of dubplate cuts that span reggae, ska, hip-hop, rock and pop - with one of the most feverish responses coming in the surprising shape of Lordea€™s a€?Royalsa€™. Some lounge outside the Soulfire Cocktail Bar - an area that acts as a source of both thirst-quenching relief and financial despair for the hordes that had spirits confiscated on arrival.
Trademarks like a€?The Seaa€™ and a€?Rome Wasna€™t Built in a Daya€™ are married with newer material for the ideal afternoon soundtrack. A mesmerising display of pyrotechnics catches hold of the gaze of not just those at the Great Stage, but the entire population of 30,000 festival.
In all honesty - with Terminator X now more akin to ostrich farming than hip-hop turntabling - the band have become a sanitised version of their former selves.
Flavor Flava€™s attempts to retain his political edge by (occasionally over-graphically) dedicating tracks to the worlda€™s oppressed, however, take away the feel-good vibes of a set that was never going to host a social revolution. Dance heavyweights Chase and Status appear to have been prematurely outed as the eveninga€™s secret guests and many find themselves unable to enter the tent. The intimacy of less-populated tents like the Small World Stage and the Living Room are an undoubted hit, soothing the humidity with folk and acoustic blues and a great remedy for overcoming the excesses of the night before.


At 3pm, revellers are handed thousands of bags of paint that its dispensers concede a€?might stain your clothes, but are definitely not toxica€?.
Regardless, the chaos offers a level of unbridled entertainment that could even risk eclipsing the proceeding DJ set by David Rodigan. A rip-roaring selection of bass-heavy cuts by the likes of Bob Marley, Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker have thousands in full voice and embracing the glaring rays. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were among the biggest hit-makers on Motown in the 1960s and despite now being 73, the frontwoman still knows how to put on a barnstorming show. But every single member of an excitable audience (and a vibrantly colourful one after the earlier paint fight) are in awe. Their genre-hopping live show spans reggae, soul, dub, jazz and hip-hop effortlessly, marking the end of one of the most vibrant events of British summer time in the most fitting way possible. In one final mindblowing act of combustion, the effigy is set alight and continues to burn bright until the Kiwi headliners bring their set to an albeit slightly abrupt end. The – almost – ten year old festival was created as an alternative to the well-known mainstream music festivals, and boy has it blossomed. The uniqueness of this festival is appealing to young, old, and crazy families with the hippy parents I always wish I’d had. Personally, it was the variety of, well, everything; a festival with a lesser focus on music, is a refreshing change to many that I have attended in the past. An example of the craziness SGP are famous for could be the pig racing, or maybe the arse reader (who holds the more formal title of asstrologist), the dance off’s, the mud wrestling, or the river where people frolic, naked and oblivious to the world outside. There are whispers of surprise acts, as with every year, where reliance on luck is the best way to be at the stage. Seemingly far away from Lad Culture, SGP is the safest bet for me to live out my peaceful fantasies, while offering a relapse into the party culture I’ll need (when friendship bracelet making gets too boring).
This year’s theme is “goodbye yellow brick road” which, in layman’s terms, means ditching the norm. Tucked away in the forest, they have amazing artists, DJs, teachers, and performers who are there to guide audiences through their bonkers world.
This isn’t a go in, get pissed, burn things, and leave your disposable tent-esque festival, this is more free spirited, laid back, and with heavy focuses in all the right places (please take your tent home). Combined with the last night fireworks, and controlled fires on stages (The sinking ship circa 2013), this is the cherry on top of Secret Garden Party’s creative, magical paradise.
The area, with a variety of tents, huts, dorms, and tepees to choose from, has its own restaurant, spa, and separate loos.
With only a couple of single releases under their belt, this Welsh psych-rock band will surely be one of the most sought after bookings when summer 2015 comes around.
Their set is not the strongest curtain-closer of the weekend, but those who have packed out the main field are not scared to get into the spirit of things. Others prefer the solace of the Komicare tent, where mind, body and soul can be pieced back together against a backdrop of chilled-out serenity. But ultimately, it matters not as bass-filled euphoria ripples through the whole site throughout the performance.
After a duo of hype-gathers with the personalities of sugar-jacked childrena€™s TV presenters explain the rules, the audience are then rather naively expected to hold tight during ten-second countdown. Therea€™s been no time for an encore, but after such a high-octane weekend there are few who need one. To add to the dress-up, the festival organisers have promised over 50 art installations, their usual workshops, and obviously, the infamous, Artful Badgers.
When it is so easy to be sucked in to the monotony of the 9-5, SGP have created a counteracting tranquil world, that offers us escape, however short the event is. But perhaps the biggest hit of the festival is the Winter Wonderland, offering sub-zero temperatures and an ice rink that provide the antithesis of the spiky heat found outside.



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