Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Saturday arrived with none of the threatened rain we were worried about. Indeed, sale the ground was so dry and cracked en route to our far flung campsite that it had opened into deep fissures.
The ad hoc nature of Secret Garden Party has it’s down points – lack of coherent line up information being one and don’t even get me started on the toilet washing facilities and *serious* lack of bins, recycling and water points. But one blessed relief after the meaty corporate queues of Latitude was the huge diversity and quality of food on offer. Around almost every corner some little caravan had set up shop to flog tea and toasties, coffee and candy, tapas or freshly made pizzas. Our breakfast consisted of a freshly toasted marmite and cheese crumpet served by a trio of “strumpets” – such a simple idea but wonderfully well executed.
PIzza prepared by my friend Lisa of Happy Kitchen.
The sunshine persuaded huge amounts of people into the lake for a swim amongst the copious pond weed which they lobbed joyously at the people crossing the pontoon bridge.
Sarah Blasko by Alexis West.
Down at the main stage Sarah Blasko seemed curiously annoyed by her lack of audience – perhaps someone should have warned her of the laid back nature of Secret Garden Party goers, particularly after a long hard night of partying. Further research reveals that Sarah is huge in Australia so she is probably isn’t used to such a muted reception and might explain her slightly brittle performance. Worth checking out though.
I Blame Coco by Fritha Strickland.
Shortly afterwards the youngsters were out in force for I Blame Coco. As someone behind me muttered, she “looks just like a female Sting” – funny that. I was strangely unmoved by the overproduced artistry of Coco and her studiously mannered 80s dance style. Still, the kids seemed to love her, so maybe I’m missing something.
The Whip by Dee Andrews.
The excitable electronica of Manchester based outfit The Whip was far better fun and the female drummer drove the now fully fancy-dressed crowd wild. “Look after each other tonight,” they laughed with the audience.
It’s good to see the lecture programme at Secret Garden Party growing in scope and popularity every year. This time we could pick from paranoid film screenings at the Conspiracy Camp or the more intrepid offerings of Explorer Camp. Over at the Forum area Ben Goldacre drew an enormous crowd for his talk on the spurious claims of the pharmaceutical industry and the dangers of Gillian McKeith.
A quiet bit of wandering brought us to the last undiscovered gems – a few children dozing to some dire but strangely enjoyable puppetry in the Cabaret Tent, and a meeting with The Earl in the S&M Tent, where a sweet looking girl in a floral head garland was being shown how to spank her best friend. I got more excited looking at pictures of The Earl’s cockerpoo puppy on his mobile.
Blimp on fire by Tim Adey.
The creators of Secret Garden Party are massive fans of the Burning Man festival and they try very hard to recreate the same feeling here in the UK. Never is their inspiration more obvious than during the annual destruction of the party island in the middle of the lake. As night fell it was time to let off hundreds of Chinese lanterns and the blimp was set on fire. We accidentally found ourselves with a fabulous vantage point of the fireworks in a backstage area complete with hot tub.
The Golden Filter by Jenny Costello.
Back over at Where the Wild Things Are Aussie-American combo The Golden Filter were doing wonderful things… and having been underwhelmed by their new album Voluspa I wasn’t quite prepared for the excitement of their live show. Charismatic singer Penelope Trappes channels an effective hybrid of floaty Florence and Alison Goldfrapp electro beats – all bathed in an eerie orange glow that made this performance a definite highlight of the entire weekend. One twitterer even proclaimed it “the best experience of Secret Garden Party.”
Reverend and the Makers by Jenny Robins.
It was indeed a hard act for Reverend and the Makers to follow… but that was okay because the entire audience was now drunk on Saturday night fun times. “Who’s off their heads?” Jon McClure wanted to know whilst he and his hype man jumped up and down at the lip of the stage and a girl at the back miraculously *played* the keyboard with no hands and *sang* along, though no noise came out of her mike. I told you this pretty young thing was a bit of a trend.
Man with a Rottweiler in a skirt.
Heading home after a long day we passed the sounds of Brassroots entertaining a packed tent with a full brass band rendition of the Eurythmics classic Sweet Dreams. It was a beautiful way to end the night.
Hay bales for seating in the Collosillyum area. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
If Latitude is a well planned amble between the South Bank, order ICA, Royal Opera House and Somerset House with added sheep, then Secret Garden Party is the biggest most eccentric three day party in the grounds of a country mansion you could never dream of. Two more diverse festivals you could not imagine.
The Party Blimp – accessible only by boat.
Music is just one of the elements that make up the Secret Garden Party experience, surely the only festival where the main acts are liable to be upstaged by a death-defying wheelchair race or a mud wrestling fight. Because the stages are not the central focus there is always space to sit down or to dance, and the natural layout of the main stage in particular means that there’s always space to see the bands properly – which makes for a far more comfortable viewing experience than at most festivals. Despite a distinct lack of well known bands the quality of music on the line up is never low, and as usual I discovered lots of great new music.
My favourite Secret Garden Party stage is built into the side of a huge tree. This year there were giant eyeballs sewn into the back and the front was made up to look like the prow of a ship, complete with a naked female figurehead. Shortly before the prow had been swung into destruction by inebriated climbing mammals Animal Kingdom took to the good ship Where the Wild Things Are with a beatific set of melodic songs that have gleaned comparisons to Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Coldplay.
Animal Kingdom by Holly Exley.
Over in the geodesic rave dome – AKA the Remix Bubble – the Lake District’s finest Burn the Negative were proving to a small but highly motivated crowd (including security on balloons) that danceable indie electro doesn’t just come out of the big cities.
Burn the Negative by Alexis West.
Secret Garden Party has expanded massively since I first came in 2004, and the more idiosyncratic attractions are now linked to the main arena by a floating bridge that caused much swaying hilarity on every crossing. As a mid afternoon treat I decided to get my toes nibbled by some miniature carp from Turkey.
Yes that’s me. White legs! Photography by Tim Adey.
The Doctor Fish has been used for centuries to cure skin ailments, and they were particularly excited by my friend Jemima’s Psoriasis. It was a very soothing experience, and my skin felt notably softer afterwards. This is the first time this particular species of fish have been imported into the UK and entrepreneur Keon Petre hopes to open a range of fish nibbling franchises.
A huge pink tent housed stalls from a carefully picked range of artists and designers including Spitalfields based illustrator Dan Hillier and jeweller Emma Ware, who makes gorgeous contemporary pieces from recycled inner tubes. Expect to hear more about her designs on this blog soon.
Fionn Regan by Abigail Daker.
Fionn Regan was the perfect treat for a sunny day, following in the traditional mould of talented Irish folk singers with added 80s McEnroe hair band action. Never a bad thing in my book.
Steve Mason by Katherine Tromans.
I knew there was a reason I felt immediately warm towards main stage act Steve Mason despite having no clue who he was – turns out he was one half of the excellent Beta Band. And anyone who twitters about Ian Tomlinson is even better in my books. Musicians with a conscience – we need more of them.
Marina and the Diamonds by Emma Block.
I’ve been a big fan of hot tip Marina and the Diamonds for some time now, but we missed most of her set whilst enjoying the most wonderful three course dinner at the Soulfire restaurant, housed in three yurts (look out for my full review, coming soon). Instead we caught the last few songs, which still gave me ample time to admire her vermillion lips and whippet thin waist: I can now confirm that she is every bit as sexy in the flesh as she comes across on record.
Afterwards we were treated to some nefarious circus fun from Down Under – including pubic angle-grinding, sword swallowing and weights hooked into eyelids. Tasteful.
I featured the Infadels way back in issue 04 of Amelia’s Magazine in 2005, and they’ve been steadily plugging away ever since. I haven’t heard any recent albums but they seemed quite happy to play lots of the old tunes, which perfectly suited the late night party crowd.
Infadels by Harriet Gray.
Most amusingly they seem to have acquired a female joint lead vocalist on one of their most famous tunes. Maybe all ageing bands will one day invite drunk negligee-wearing teenagers on board to spice things up. Oh hang on, it’s already become a trend… (see Saturday’s blog…)
The Delays by Abby Wright.
Last up on Where the Wild Things Are at gone 1am the glitter-covered Delays played a fantastically energetic set to a shockingly small crowd. “Let’s see some shoulder action,” they pleaded. “It’s not a festival without it.” Several people obligingly mounted their friends with rapidity. I hope one day this vastly underrated band finds the success they deserve. Catch our recent interview with them here.
Gabby Young by Moon.
Our Sunday got off to a sleepy start, viagra 60mg as it did for most Secret Gardeners. Bypassing the cleverly marketed Hendrick’s gin carriage in favour of a cup of tea, I wended my way to the press tent to once more charge my damn crappy iphone, and caught the soulful electro sounds of Belleruche, rather erroneously described in the £5 brochure as “blissed out hip hop beats”.
This lovely artwork was displayed in the Hendrick’s train carriage. Apparently the artist is a woman based in the Truman Brewery but they couldn’t tell me who it was. Does anyone know? Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Belleruche by Stacie Swift.
It wasn’t long before I was distracted by the nefarious lure of mud wrestling over in the aptly named Collisillyeum. To start off proceedings a small semi naked boy was encouraged to wrestle a large slippery man in nowt but pants – thankfully it transpired that this was his dad otherwise the picture below might look extremely dodgy.
After the couple had managed to drag mum into the mud it was time to pit some blonde ladies against a couple of brunettes before sending a load of curiously willing men into the arena, where many a bollock and boob was soon on display. Naturally my proximity to the action ensured both myself and my camera got well spattered in mud.
David Rodigan by Louise Sterling.
Back at the main stage DJ David Rodigan was the surprise hit of Sunday afternoon. The 59 year old gave us a guided tour through the history of reggae with all the enthusiasm of an overexcited puppy whilst the crowd jumped around in reciprocal glee.
Savoir Adore by Andrea Peterson.
Savoir Adore hail from Brooklyn, and showed typically American enthusiasm for Secret Garden Party. “We’re so excited – this is the coolest place.” Wearing standard festival glittery eye make up (I blame Bat For Lashes – even the boys are covered in it these days) their gorgeous brand of melodic electronica was met by a laconic audience. “I know how tired you guys are…” opined singer Deidre Muro, “but I invite you to stand up.” She didn’t have much luck, but this shouldn’t be equated with any lack of enthusiasm.
Horace Andy by Sine Skau.
Over in the main area it was time to subject my poor camera to another onslaught – this time a paint powder fight that bathed the happy dancers in a pastel fluoro glow before submerging them in the mellow beats of reggae supremo Horace Andy.
Last photograph by Tim Adey.
Thanks to a tip off from my boyfriend I caught the fantastic Gabby Young and Other Animals playing to a small crowd at the Chai Wallah tent. Gabby was dressed in an amazing ruffled paper and lace concoction accessorised with coloured false hair pieces; a dream to photograph and illustrate. Together with banjo and brass she creates wonderful big band indie folk you can dance to. A real discovery.
Gabby Young by Michelle Urvall Nyrén.
We stayed for the majority of headliners Mercury Rev, most notable for their well practiced stadium posturing. Ours was a quick midnight drive back to London but I hear at times there were dire queues to get both in and out of Secret Garden Party.
All in all this was another vintage year from the one festival that refuses to bow to corporate Festival Republic pressure. Long may it remain thus, for this is one grown up’s party that deserves to continue in perpetuity. I shall leave you with my remaining selection of Sunday’s highlights.
Interactive games in the theatre tent.
Best costume of the entire weekend? Even he had no idea what it was supposed to be.
Make up inspired by Leigh Bowery.
Doing the limbo in a feather boa.
A man in bikini, fat suit and rollers. Why of course!
Art in the woods.
Loved up, photography by Tim Adey.
Wheelchair disaster. Photography by Tim Adey.
- Festival Preview: Secret Garden Party
- Secret Garden Party 2010: Saturday Review
- Secret Garden Party: The Festival Preview Series
- New for 2013: Amelia’s Award will launch the career of a talented Graduate Designer Maker
- Secret Garden Party 2011: Festival Review