The Secret Garden Party is true festival eye candy

The Secret Garden Party 2010 review

published: Wed 28th Jul 2010

around the festival site (5)

Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th July 2010
East Anglia - full venue information will be released nearer the time., England
adult weekend £142
daily capacity: 26000
last updated: Tue 20th Jul 2010

I have three descriptive words for this festival. Colourful and visually stimulating. Watch out for whiplash as you spin your head around and around trying to fill your brain with the images that align every pathway and tent at this small and beautifully formed festival. This is an overview of the Secret Garden Party, held in an ideal spot in Huntingdon (apart from the constant lake midges… so annoying). I can not tell you all the bands I saw or heard, as I do not know who they are, as the music, although amazing, became mostly for myself a soundtrack to a weekend of fun and crazy sights.

The organisers of this 'different' festival like to call their punters "secret gardeners", and taking many inspirations from the Burning Man festival in the US where everyone participates, they like you to come along with your ticket and perform for as well as be performed to. This leads to the huge crowds of multicoloured fancy dressed twenty and thirty-something's, some with very unique costumes (the yellow brick road and the Large Hadron Collider for example). The theme this year is Fact or Fiction, which means there are plenty of unicorns, dragons and other mythical beasts roaming the fields. In fact you stand out more if you are not in fancy dress...

The programme is as much of a mind twist as the festival is. Trying to find an artist takes a few days of figuring out the programme lay out, so the best way to hear music is to happen upon some playing in a tent or on a stage and check them out. There are no large bands here, the largest I see is GSS (the Gorillaz sound system), but they seem to just be playing Gorillaz tracks, so wandering off means bumping into Killa Kella and his brilliant beat boxing, or a random band (they get more random the later it gets) playing brass band covers of RATM. In fact, as clued up as I am (i.e. not very) the only bands I know on the line up are Dreadzone (who play a scorching Sunday afternoon set on the main Great Stage) and Son of Dave. The rest are recommendations from friends like Apples and the sweet vocals from Belleruche. Other bands are just happened upon, as the ears are the second sense to be overloaded here after sight (thankfully third to smell though, the toilets are a bit ripe, although clean).

around the festival site (2)
Talking of the stages, there are twenty various indoor or outdoor stages knocking about, many with their own bars. The Great Stage overlooks the large lake that runs through the centre of the festival, and is temporary home to the pre-mentioned GSS and Dreadzone, along with Horace Andy, Mercury Rev and Marina and The Diamonds.

Across from this sits the Remix Bubble where Hybrid, Goldierocks and Freestylers Sound System grace the stage. Around the corner is the Madam Geisha (or 'Pigs Might Fly' tent, everything has different names on them compared to the programme!)), across from the Coli-silly-ium or Bearded Kittens stage, a roman style seating and exhibition stage where mud wrestling and other battle commence.

Near the edge of the lake is the Pagoda, a stage reaching out into the lake, difficult to get onto due to the size and how many people want to be on it, so if this is the case you can head back and chill in front of the boat shaped Where The Wild Things Are stage. Or if you wanna swim to a stage there's always the Blimp, an old Viking / airship hybrid in the centre of the lake, but careful to visit it early as it goes up in flames on the Saturday night…
around the festival site (1)
The Pussy Parlour DJ tent is around here to overlooking the lake, and a quick walk along the hill leads you to the Hanging Bands stage where you can sit in the shade of the big tree and listen to everything from chilled out tunes to pumped up reggae. The Feast of Fools stage takes you back to mediaeval times with the likes of DJ Bardcore and Ghostfire. The Temple of Excess is a small tent situated past the medical tent and behind the main bar, giving you something to dance to whilst waiting in the huge queues for the toilets (there seem to be enough toilets, everyone must need to go at the same time!).

Walking across the floating bridge and past the swimming area (which looks a bit green for me!) you head into the healing fields, kids areas and Sanctuary, where some performances go on in the daytime (we see the Rolling Stage, an open mic stage on a cart here). There is plenty for the kids to do, and the Yoga for Babies shows, T Potty sweetie weighing ladies and stage acts show that the organisers really have thought about kids and what they want to do.

The Theatre tent is situated near to the north camp sites, and across from here is the centre camp, a mish mass of the best parts of the festival, featuring poetry, folk, arts classes, films, unsigned bands and many, many more acts. Next to this is the Gaia Soundscape stage, sitting across the lake from the Great Stage, with trees that are beautifully illuminated during the night providing the perfect back drop to world music ranging from Afro Cuban, Balkan, Techno Surf and Spanish Rumba to name a few.

Past the acoustic Living Room stage is The Crossroads, a stage featuring genius performances like the Hendrix influenced one man band Lewis Floyd Henry, surrounded by weird animal taxidermy creations and bookshelves. The Planet Of Antics hosts folk music until the early hours, and next door the Chai Wallahs is a great chill out place by day serving breakfast and booze and at night a great tent hosting the likes of Diplomats of Sound, Demanchana and Dom Coyote.

Up from here is my favourite chill out place (as a Clash fan), the Strummerville campfire. So busy it gets with various people taking to the stage like Beans On Toast and other random and unlisted performances that you are lucky to get near the fire on the multitudes of sofas lying about, but it's a nice place to chill before bed, and not a long walk away from any of the four campsites. That is if you don't nip into the Artful Badger, a stage tucked away in the woodland near the festival entrance featuring the Feathered Mullet bar and music from amongst others Badger Badger Badgerotica, The Egg and Count Sizzle.

around the festival site (4)
Overall this is true festival eye candy. I wish I would have studied and tried to decipher the programme more and tried to find people to listen to, but again I like the wandering about and the whole discovery of it all. Your fellow gardeners could not be more friendly, if a little drunker on all that Aspalls cider, but there is no trouble at all, just a friendly place and a strange little planet for one weekend a year. With the line ups for the bigger festivals seeming to miss the point and place new nobodies as headliners over established stars, coming together in a place like this where everything is entertaining as you are involved in making it happen is a great change from the more corporate festivals, and is where I will be spending my ticket money in future.

A few pointers if I may, there could be more medics roaming the festival, as a friend of mine collapsed and was waiting over 10 minutes for some assistance from a medic as they had to walk from the medical tent (we had plenty of untrained stewards handy though). Maybe another row of toilets at each block would help with queues? The £2 toilets are ok, and Happy Crappy Hour for a £1 complete with DJ desk at the lavvies is genius, if a little expensive as all the toilets are all pretty clean. Apart from that and taking some bug spray next time I have nothing else to add, the place is amazing as it is. Remember to take a fancy dress costume and an open mind to this highly, highly recommended festival.

around the festival site (7)
review by: Danielle Millea

photos by: Danielle Millea

Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th July 2010
East Anglia - full venue information will be released nearer the time., England
adult weekend £142
daily capacity: 26000
last updated: Tue 20th Jul 2010


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