Friday overview

The Secret Garden Party 2008 review

published: Thu 31st Jul 2008

Operator Please

Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th July 2008
Cambridgeshire - full venue information will be released nearer the time., England
Adult weekend £125, (14-17) £100, Under 14 free (prices include all fees)
last updated: Wed 9th Jul 2008

The fifth Secret Garden Party is located in the beautiful grounds of Lord and Lady Fellowes' estate in Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire. It began as a private garden party thrown by their son, Fred, and has grown from there. It's run as a not-for-profit festival and without any sponsorship, which is refreshing. The amount of ideas and creativity that have clearly been pumped into SGP are quite staggering.

around the site Friday (1)

The party officially started last night with DJs, hula hoopers and dancing to get the Gardeners (the festival attendees) in the mood. It certainly feels like a party when we arrive on Friday, with lots of fancy dress costumes and eye-catching outfits, plenty of music and such a vast array of activities, it's difficult to know where to start.

I'm concentrating on the bands but SGP is not really a music festival, more of a party experience and I could be indulging in mud wrestling, skinny dipping, bubblewrap popping, sock wrestling, twilight maypole dancing, silent disco dancing, raft-building, bodypainting, karaoke singing, seeking counselling from the bad advice bears or making candle holders out of scrap.

The festival is spread out over two sides of a lake with a large mainstage area, 'The Great Stage' and then smaller tent venues dotted around, like 'Where the Wild Things Are', 'The Living Room', and 'Small World' which all have artistic décor. The happenings on the mainstage side are generally more dancey and louder, and the other side has a more acoustic and chilled vibe. There's also 'The Pagoda' stage, a dance floor jutting out in to the lake, and a galleon in the middle of the lake which people are ferried out to on Friday and Saturday until Saturday evening when the galleon is ceremoniously burnt.

There's a kids' area too, and there are plenty of food stalls with some excellent organic fare and smoothies, a Chocolate Harlot Parlour with chocolate fountains, strawberries and champagne, and we hear that apparently spanking is on the menu too! The punters are asked not to bring food or alcohol onto the site though this rule is clearly flouted and the bar prices may be a little steep for some with wine and beer at £3.70 each.

around the site Friday (2)

The Secret Garden Party does also have a more contemplative side and the theme of the weekend is Come the Revolutions, with some interesting talks taking place in the Idler Garden such as 'A supermarket ate my planet' and 'How to smash the system'.

The first band I catch on Friday afternoon at the Great Stage (mainstage) is The Sugars, a three piece with shared male and female vocals. They label themselves as blues/garage/soul and are quite upbeat and dancy but don't leave a huge impression.

Next is The All New Adventures of Us who hail from Northampton. There are seven members and they create a big sound of bright and breezy, summery pop which is perfect for a sunny festival afternoon. They play their new single '45 Forever' and a couple of other stand out tracks, 'Medicine' with sax accompaniment, and 'Perfectly Imperfect'.

I miss Alphabeat to help my friend put her tent up – we're in the overflow camping as everywhere else is mega-packed - and we get to see most of the next mainstage band, Operator Please, who've come all the way from Australia and are faster-paced, more jagged pop than we've heard so far. Their songs are familiar from the BBC6 playlist – the frantic 'Just a Song About Ping Pong' and 'Get What You Want' and they do a cover of Salt-n-Pepa's 'Push It'. Great fun!

Shout Out Louds

Cage the Elephant, who I really wanted to check out, have cancelled their slot in the Wild Things tent as the lead singer's broken his leg so I get to see the Swedish band Shout Out Louds instead. The Shout Out Louds are a guitar band with downbeat lead vocals akin to Conor Oberst. A fast-paced, harmonica laden, 'My Friend and the Ink on His Fingers' is a highlight.

We wander off to familiarise ourselves with the layout of the site. We stumble across the boutique camping field which looks great with their own showers, beach huts and tipis – very expensive though. There are some other nice touches around the place with bales of hay covered in sheets for people to sit on, hammocks for relaxing in near the Wild Things stage, camp fires to warm yourself around in the evening/early morning and interesting sculptures and works of art that you can admire but also climb on, sleep on or play piano on.

We sample a bit of Metronomy in the Dance Rocks venue which is digital funk with a trancey vibe, which the audience are loving, and then wander some more. We're quite intrigued to see that there appears to be a spin class going on at 2 in the morning in the Wild Things venue, but they're cycling to power 'a kaleidoscope of performance energy'.

around the site Friday (2)
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Darryl Moir / Kirsty Umback / Helen OSullivan

Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th July 2008
Cambridgeshire - full venue information will be released nearer the time., England
Adult weekend £125, (14-17) £100, Under 14 free (prices include all fees)
last updated: Wed 9th Jul 2008


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