Secret Garden Party - Review

So, what do you want from a festival and what did The Secret Garden Party deliver? (in no particular order)
Easy entrance and exit? Tick!
Gorgeous setting and surroundings? Tick!
Clean toilets? Tick!
No queues for said toilets? Tick!
Chill out areas? Tick!
All night shenanigans? Tick!
Amazing line up of music? Tick!
Friendly, relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere? Tick!
Readily supply of bars and eateries? Tick!
A surprise around every corner? Tick!
Bizarreness? Tick!
The weird and wonderful? Tick
The unexpected? Tick!
Something for everyone? Tick!
A full game of cricket in front of the main stage in the middle of Saturday afternoon? Tick!
A full set from The Sunshine Underground? Well you cant get it all!

At whatever time you arrive, the space to pitch you tent is available. As you wonder down through the camp site and towards The Sanctuary you realise that the atmosphere is stress-free and welcoming, and there is an air of tranquillity. But there is no doubt that if you want to find a night of mayhem or none sleep then just follow the throb coming out of one of the many various dance tents, curiously placed around the site. As you stroll across the wooden bridge into the main music area you realise that this festival is unusual in a very special way. There are hidden treasures around every corner, peculiar delights laid across you path and surprises in every hidden nook and cranny. There are very normal people walking around, some with their families and friends just enjoying a lovely summers evening. There are also the weird. Men with horses heads, gangs of middle age men in 1940's style cricket outfits, fairies, dwarfs, giants, demons, dogs, sheep, and the stung out hippies, getting away from their normal 9-5 lives sitting in a chicken coup in an office in the middle of the city.

And, if you saw this array of characters standing in line for the toilet if would look strange. But you don't. There are NO queues. Not for beer, toilets or food. And if you want to get right up to the front of the stage, within almost touching distance of your heroes you can. In fact, go on, touch them!

Then there are the many areas of relaxation. Hale bails covered in padded fabric. Under trees, in tents, in the middle of fields, almost everywhere and, you will find it very hard not to find space available. The lay of the land is such that you can lie back all day and watch the main stage, as well as the many other performance areas, on grass banks and only have to move to go to the beer tent or the occasional (non queuing) toilet.

As for the bands, there is such a variety of music that there is something for everyone. Eddie Temple Morris led the field on the Saturday night and mixed it up in the remix tent, with not a still foot in the house. Reverend and The Makers brought there individual dance/indie style to the same tent on the Friday, proving that they are going to be a big hit, if not this year, but next as the must band you have to see live. Then the Saturday evening band trail of New Young Pony Club, followed by The Sunshine Underground meant that all NME or Guardian readers had two hours of enjoyment. Although this does bring me onto the only negative point of the weekend. The Sunshine Underground. Not them, but the supposedly bad organisation which meant they could play 6 songs. As the band before the headlining act on the main stage, everyone was expecting a full set of songs, showcasing every song off of their amazing album, but for them to walk off stage after 6 songs (and not to mention the WWF wrestler invading the stage), it was bitterly disappointing.

But not to dwell on this point, The Secret Garden Festival is a must in the British Summer Festival season. But then again, maybe not. Maybe it is worth keeping it small and allowing it to deliver everything it already delivers, without the big corporate machine behind it, hedging for profits. Maybe it is just worth keeping a secret.

Charlotte Clayton

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