The Secret Garden Party is all about having fun

The Secret Garden Party 2009 review

published: Tue 4th Aug 2009

Phoenix

Thursday 23rd to Sunday 26th July 2009
East Anglia - full venue information will be released nearer the time., England
early bird adult weekend £137, (14-17) £110, under 14 free (prices include all fees) - SOLD OUT
last updated: Tue 21st Jul 2009

Not sure what to expect from a 'boutique' festival, Secret Garden was nearly going to be the smallest festival I'd been to. Could it compete with major festivals given that ticket prices are pretty similar or is it just an overpriced party in a park?

around the festival site (4)
Once on site, you're there! No arena, no fuss, just set up your tent and be on your way! Simple. Its even allowed to bring your own drinks along, so no problems with overpriced bars – in fact, I can't remember if they were or not.

With the site split into two halves, one side for 'Edenites' and the other for 'Babylonians' – When sent your ticket you are given a fancy dress theme, Eden (back to nature) or Babylon (excess in all forms). In Eden there was a more creative side to the festival, with Chai tents and fancy dress shops and more acoustic / spoken word stages.

around the festival site (1)
On the other side of the lake was Babylon with the Great stage, dance tents, bizarre sound systems, fashion shows and Medieval area. In the middle of this, a lake, with the Tower of Babel standing tall above the festival. The only way to get on board the centre piece was finding a boat willing to take you over – usually involving a queue and a wait (not so much fun). If that's not for you, there was even an area for swimming in if you fancied a dip in the muddy looking water. I was happy just standing back watching some of the biggest bubbles float around catching the sun, made by a fancy stick and rope construction.

around the festival site (coli silly um)
Wrestling wasn't the first thing I think of at a festival, but there seemed to be a lot. Mud wrestling, sock wrestling and even glitter wrestling, all there for you to try your hand at. This truly is a festival where you take part, not stand back and watch. If you didn't get covered in mud after the festival record - getting 20 people in the mud pit, then you were not close enough to have really been there (I'm still finding mud in unusual places). The late night sock wrestling was another story but getting two slightly worse for wear people trying to follow the simple rules of not standing up and taking one sock off (or leaving one on, depending on how many you are wearing) was entertainment in itself.

around the festival site (ball pit rave)
If that's not enough, a mini dance-off stage where competitors follow dance instructions or take part in a dance-off. A ball-crawl rave, where you can, well, rave in a ball crawl! Failing that, just try your hand at circus skills *looking like an idiot trying to hula* or watch the acts on the Medieval stage. From sword fighting to klexmer to old English comedy songs like 'Your baby has gorn dahn the plug'ole' and various Tom Lehrer songs sung by appropriate singers in Victorian costumes. Top that off with a good glass of mead and the summer snowboarding next door suddenly seems like a good idea.

around the festival site (great fire)
The spectacle of the festival had to be the burning of the Tower of Babel. A procession of samba dancers, musicians, fire poi, other fire dancers and more meandered around the site heading towards the Great Stage. After a short wait, fireworks burst from the top of the tower and the building bursts into flame. With reflections across the lake and soundtrack from whatever music was nearby created a stunning effect. Even the hardest partiers stopped and watched the show.

I forgot, there was some music too! A bit of Official Secrets Act and Phoenix made the way for a set to remember from Jarvis Cocker on the Friday night. The adoring crowd couldn't be stopped from joining him onstage, much to the annoyance of security, but he happily carried on sharing the songs with his sometimes 'guest vocalists'.

Saturday had some fine breakbeat and electro from Simian Mobile Disco, Eddy Temple Morris and Evil Nine in the Dance Rocks vs. Ninja Tune stage, whilst Caribou played a mesmerising set in the Where The Wild Things Are stage.

Emiliana Torrini
A more chilled out day on Sunday hosted Emmy the Great, and Emiliana Torrini on the great stage, 808 State for some vintage techno then Zero 7 topped off the festival with a more beaty set than usual. The crammed tent (and even more crammed stage) enjoyed every minute. Not playing any of their usual material, the B Music instrumental set was fresh and just about kept the rain at bay.

This little festival is about making your own fun and with many options to get involved throughout the year – by having ideas for areas or designing boats – it is fairly easy to get on the staff if you want to have some fun. What its about in the end. Fun! Not much more I can say except go and experience this hedonistic party for yourself.

Phoenix

review by: Chris Mathews

photos by: Chris Mathews

Thursday 23rd to Sunday 26th July 2009
East Anglia - full venue information will be released nearer the time., England
early bird adult weekend £137, (14-17) £110, under 14 free (prices include all fees) - SOLD OUT
last updated: Tue 21st Jul 2009


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