Goodbye to Secret Garden Party; Britain’s Most-Loved Wacky Festival

Aug 1 2017 BY Aniah Boakye-Smith

Last weekend we bid goodbye to the wackiest, most wonderful annual summer event that was the Secret Garden Party.  It couldn’t possibly, however, have made its exit without a bang. The spectacle this year, succeeding 15 strong years, could quite arguably have been the best yet.

Known for putting roughly half of the proceeds back into making the festival as amazing as possible, it was clear to see that no expense was spared for the grand finale. The Saturday spectacle which ended with an ever burning heart sailing along the water was absolutely phenomenal. The final paint fight was legendary and the artists all weekend were top of the range.

 

I arrived on Saturday (the dress up day) with a sea of mud and rain to greet me.  I’ve been to my fair share of festivals and I’ve experienced my fair share of mud but nothing could have prepared me for how muddy SGP was – I’m still finding mud in places I didn’t think possible! The rain was pretty serious, though it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. Instead, it was an excuse to explore (and find shelter in) any of the many different tents and multi-faceted attractions that could be found on site.

 

You had everything from a Moroccan inspired shisha tent; complete with beanbags and hanging lanterns, the popular Dalston Superstore night – Little Gay Brother had their own residency in a flamboyantly fashioned pink and yellow tent, there were poetry readings, fairground rides, big and little tops playing the riddims, a speaker’s corner and even comedy acts to keep spirits high.

Never having been before, but still having done ample research in the lead up to the garden party, I was still astounded at the effort everybody went to for dress up day on Saturday. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, especially an event where attendee participation is so crucial to its success. I spied an entire flash mob with outfits styled entirely from IKEA carrier bags, there was glitter beyond belief, feathers, sequins, nudity, you name it – I saw it. It’s hard to put a finger on a word to describe SGP, but everything and everyone is so beautifully creative, outrageous and if I’m quite honest – bat sh*t crazy!

On a purpose built site, SGP is literally hand crafted for its revellers. The participation of the attendees is what made it such a remarkable and original event. There are areas completely built and put on by the party goers, for the party goers; the sense of community is immense. I can’t compare it to anywhere I’ve ever been; the place literally exudes so much character.

 

Aside from the visuals, the music on offer was also a treat. With a varied and eclectic musical mix, there was such diversity on offer across all the stages, tents and little hovels. Artists including Metronomy, Crystal Fighters, Toots & the Maytals headlined the weekend. With the likes of Ray Blk, Zak Abel, Etta Bond, Let’s Eat Grandma and more supporting. The festival is spread out over two sides of a lake with a large main stage area, ‘The Great Stage’ and then smaller tent venues scattered around, such as ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and ‘The Living Room’.

On Saturday I got to see Kate Nash, Jorja Smith and Rejjie Snow perform on ‘The Great Stage’ all of whom were amazing and brought the vibes despite the weather. The other side of the lake has more a chilled, intimate vibe with acoustic performances and more alternative attractions. I ended the night watching the fireworks over the lake and they really were simply spectacular. As well as music, there were lots of activities for both the kids and adults; open mic stages, theatre workshops, boat rides, swimming, mud wrestling, treasure hunts, twilight fire circles, a lido, space hoppers, a beautiful picturesque sunflower field, massages and other games on offer. The crowd and the attractions are so diverse you could bring your Nan, baby and your dog and nobody would fail to be entertained.

 

Sunday was another wet day and the vibes were a little more chilled out. I saw the fabulous Ray Blk perform on ‘The Great Stage’ and she absolutely killed it. I spent the day exploring more of the site and prepping myself to get back to reality on Monday.

The park is absolutely huge and it is so easy to lose yourself in the surrealism. I don’t even think I even scaled half of the site – there was so much to see, with a surprise around every corner. It is undoubtedly one of the best-looking sites I’ve ever encountered; the intricate detail and the thought process behind everything is elite. It really is the garden party of all garden parties. Especially being a completely independent brand, with no advertising or sponsorship SGP really has made a name for itself. My only regret is not having gone before.