The Secret Garden Party offers a wealth of visual and sonic treats

The Secret Garden Party 2011 review

published: Tue 2nd Aug 2011

around the festival site (Saturday 2)

Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th July 2011
Mill Hill Field, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE28 2PH, England MAP
£155 adult weekend
daily capacity: 26000
last updated: Wed 29th Jun 2011

As a Secret Garden Party virgin, the first thing that blew me away was the sheer amount of activities, stages, and general frivolity in the beautifully designed site, and the walking distance between all these treats would never leave you feeling worn out.

around the festival site (Saturday 2)
Walking on to site on Saturday morning, it was obvious that everyone had raided their fancy dress boxes as well as their imaginations, to produce the most garish and spectacular costumes for the weekend.

There was an abundance of the standard animal suits, a huge amount of tails, and many more costumes from mystical to unexplainable creatures.

around the festival site (Saturday 2)
The arena had a slow start with people seemingly recovering from the previous night's activities in the safety of their tents. I wandered into a desolate area in front of The Great Stage, where The Hall Of Mirrors were performing.

The atmosphere was extremely chilled with people lounging lazily and relaxing to the Kate Bushesque styles of the singer and the eerily melodic sounds of the group. The music definitely fit the light mood to the start of the day.

around the festival site (Saturday 2)
As the day pushed on everyone emerged in high spirits, and the dragonfly stage in the middle of the lake opened, with people making their way across on boats and dinghies to join the mass of bodies jumping up and down to the DJ's beats. There were too many activities onsite to list but I particularly enjoyed the crazy space hopper race taking place, as well as seeing the big (and small) adults enjoying the swing and slide set-up. There was also a great little crazy golf, as well as a giant sized Hungry Hippos game amongst the countless non-music based activities you could take part in.

Brassroots took to The Great Stage and impressed the crowd with their Big Band performances of classic hits such as 'Seven Nation Army' and the infamous 'Karma Police'. These guys have just got steadily better as I've followed them over the past couple of years and I would describe it as music that is so good, you could listen to it all day.

The Correspondents
Quirky twosome The Correspondents were up next, which I was admittedly delighted by, as I am a big fan of this duo, who take the traditional sounds of swing music and mix them with electro and drum'n'bass sounds. The arena quickly filled up as they took to the stage and the crowd were dancing along, as madly as the eccentric lead vocalist, Mr Bruce, who spat out the funky lyrics over the beats and pranced about the stage, even running on a treadmill device near the end of their set.

Straying away from the mainstage, I caught rising singer, YasmIn, on the Remix stage, adorned with Mickey Mouse ears, which fit in perfectly with the craziness of the festival; she took to the stage and performed a set that showed off the silkiness and power of her voice. A testament to a good singer is when the tent fills up as they continue playing, and this was the case here.

YasmIn
She was joined by MC Illaman for her last couple of tracks, who really impressed the crowd, with his rapping skills and lyrics, and as a duo they complimented each other. There was an awkward moment where Illaman spoke off Amy Winehouse's tragic death to an audience of people who had not all heard the news yet and it sort of put a confused dampener on the end of the set.

As the evening progressed there was a lot of buzz around who the special guests would be on various stages, as the night before had seen an unexpected Ed Sheeran (under the name of Angel) play on one of the smaller stages. There was also a lot of excitement flying about over the 'big annual burn' where the lake stage, which had been filled with explosives and fireworks all day, would be set alight in the yearly tradition.

Legendary rock chick Blondie took to the great stage, dressed in a gothic-style long black gown, and launched into a powerful set of all her classics. There was a good solid crowd but nothing of mind-blowing proportions for her set; she threw in some surprises such as Beastie Boys' hit 'Fight for your Right (to Party)'.

She carried herself with quiet dignity but also got the crowd hyped up with her pumped fists and shouts of encouragement. By the time she got to her classic, 'One Way or Another', the crowd was bouncing about throwing all the best 80's shapes they could muster.

After Blondie, everyone spread out in the desperate hope of finding a good spot for the burning along the hills and banks surrounding the river. The good thing about SGP is that it is set amongst hills and dips so as a short person, I was always able to see the main stage or other activities going on.

Securing a place on the bank, the burn started and it was absolutely magical. Aligning the whole perimeter of the lake were performers carrying flames and creating beautiful shapes, as Catherine Wheels went off around the stage and finally the Grasshopper caught light.

As the fire roared through the structure the fireworks began to go off inside it and what followed was purely a stunning festival moment. Everyone was so moved and impressed at the sheer preparation that had gone into the epic display and it was like nothing I had ever seen at a festival before.

The night didn't end there as some stages had DJ's going until 7am, which is when I finished partying my heart out with the masses and crawled to bed extremely happy.

around the festival site (Saturday 3)
review by: Fiona Madden

photos by: Fiona Madden

Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th July 2011
Mill Hill Field, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE28 2PH, England MAP
£155 adult weekend
daily capacity: 26000
last updated: Wed 29th Jun 2011


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