Amelia’s Magazine | A garden fit for Adam and Eve


Rolling through the beautiful countryside of Cambridge, pulling over for directions every ten minutes (it’s location is secret after all) with guitars, fancy dress, snacks and booze covering the laps of my back seated allies, our excitement was hard to contain as good old Bob Marley (there is no control over the drivers choice of tunes from the back seat) tingled our ears.


The lake by day

After several picturesque wrong turns and about two hours constructing a mansion sized spangly new tent my organised friend had lost the instructions for, we were finally ready “to participate in anything and everything” as instructed by the Secret Garden handbook. Setting up camp on the Thursday, we kept our sensible hats on and opted to keep this the first night of four gentle. Strolling round the grounds we were bombarded by the beauty of the landscape sparkling before our eyes.

Awaking on Friday with a spring in our step, we were ready to indulge in the enticing surreal world. An afternoon stroll took us past Granny’s Gaff. Notorious for their whacky behaviour, these chaps are not to be messed with. Hosting The Granny Prix, my associates and I joined the crowd of onlookers as brave characters tackled the zestful fancy dressed elderly. Ramming their pesky stabilisers and poking with walking sticks as the competitors attempted to dodge to the finish line, we drifted onto the next spectacle having witnessed the lesson never judge a book by its cover.


The Granny’s Gaff


The Granny Prix


On looking Pagoda from the bridge

Tucked away like a magpies treasure chest was the stage on water, Pagoda. Not only was this quite a spectacle but there were some rather top class sets from the likes of Firas and Sugarfoot Stomp, giving an excuse for a rave, even at lunchtime!! When the pace got too much and our dancing feet began to wilt, a dawdle to The Great Stage allowed some seated, cross legged entertainment with Absentee floating across the valley of mayhem.

Revived, a leisurely stroll along the banks led us to some very unstable modes of transport lining up. Having spotted these dodgy vehicles being created earlier, I did have an inkling they may be for a further purpose. My concern however lay in the fact that we were about to witnesses to what looked like a fatal event. Fair enough, grown men can look after themselves but when children began to line up alongside them, the sensible side (20%) of me echoed in my head “where the heck are their parents?” Constructed from reclaimed materials including wheel chairs, children’s toys and prams these bold nippers had created the most eclectic array of wheels. Sure, they looked like beautiful trash sculptures but that menacing slope looked like it may be the end of them, and their passengers!!


The workshop of reclaimed wheels


The starting line of the Down Hill Race


The aftermath of the Mud Olympics


A spot of hula hooping


The zebras of Zebra World getting ready to run around their assault course


Row your boat gently down the stream

After many spectacles we settled in the Fish Seeks Bicycle tent, who served up ska, swing, and disco with a dollop of dirty beats. Offering the likes of The Crafty Rascals to Dan Spinney this tent was certainly the space to remain for any retro kids. If that didn’t rock your boat (pardon the pun) then the Sparkly Nuts tent provided constant crazy vibes with electro and house, as long as you weren’t bothered by being surrounded by what seemed like a mass killing at a teddy bears picnic. Stuffed toys body parts ripped off, replaced with dolls torsos, eyes dangling out with arms and legs falling off were at every angle you glanced. Finishing at one o’clock in the morning, low and behold anyone who was getting sleepy. Night time at the garden is when all the sights become alive. The Playhouse by Joanna Rogers, which had seemed intriguing by day now took on a new character, glowing invitingly with lights wrapped around its bizarre cardboard construction. The perfect place for a cosy chat or time out to admire the views.


The safe haven of inside the Playhouse


An evening view on looking the lake from the Playhouse


A gathering deep in the woods


Beware of the high in the tree tops

Wrapped up in my sticky tent early on Saturday morning I had the strangest dream, that I was a godparent and it was my nephews christening. Abruptly awaking to my alarm, I realised this was not my imagination, it was true. I won’t bore you with the details. But I made it all the way to Bristol. That was not my final farewell to the garden mind, I just had to come back. Having missed the likes of Esser, Zero 7, Ratatat and the Infadels, there was no way I was gong to miss the finale.

Sunday, the day of rest. Exactly what was needed after my struggle of a journey back. Although excited to return to my associates for the last 24 hours of secret fun, I was keen to stroll around in a calm fashion, to take in what would be my last sights of the Secret Garden 2008. Scrap Shack had caught my eye many a time as I had passed by, and a quiet afternoon without my head punishing me for antics the night before seemed like the perfect chance to go and get creative.


The Scrap Shack front desk


Scrap Shacks contributors had made some delightful installations to entice the punters


My allies for the weekend Helen and Verity getting stuck in


The girls from Scrap Shack modelling some of the creations of the day

The idea for Scrap Shack was to invite the quirky festival types to get involved, selecting rubbish from cans to cartons and making any item they desired. Once finishing their masterpiece, the inventors either left their work of art behind and moved onto the next attraction or took it with them as fancy dress attire, a must have accessory or simply a memory of their talent in return for a small donation. Any pieces which were left behind would then be sold at the kiosk the following day. From rings made from pill packets to tin can hats, this clever collaborative group Passing Clouds were not only providing a wonderful event for all ages to join in and encouraging recycling but making a few coins here and there for the evenings booze.


Some beer mugs ready for sale the following day


Lykke Li the little groover


Florence and the Machines belting ‘em out

That evening we settled in Where the Wild Things Are to see that adorable little Swede Lykke Li. With such a tone of innocence in her voice it’s a little surprising to hear of her tales of heartache. Yet, how can anyone go wrong with undertones of Bjork and Marissa Nadler? Not only can this girl dab hand with a megaphone on stage, she’s a bit of a mover as well. Following up her act later was Florence and The Machine, or perhaps with the way she can belt out those notes, Florence the machine. A top class vibrant and moving performance was had, with even the chaps of the audience down with her vibes.

From 10 ft tall birds nests and doodle dens, poetry to conspiracy theories; the garden catered for all tastes, ages, passions and levels of quirkiness. Music lovers, artists and party animals were all united and spoilt with persistent entertainment 24 hours a day. The Secret Garden Party of 2008; a modern day scene fit for Adam and Eve, a psychedelic garden of temptation and beauty must be visited atleast once in a lifetime.

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