Review | Secret Garden Party 2016

Always expect this festival to succeed in trying new things


Since getting back from this years four-day adventure in the Cambridgeshire countryside, all I have read on-line about the event is their pioneering approach to drug safety, with the festival organisers along with The Loop offering attendees the chance to have their drugs tested before taking them, helping to weed out the particularly strong and harmful strains and giving the persons concerned a chance to evaluate if they actually want to ingest the substance. This is something that I believe needs to be rolled out to all festivals as it’s cleat that ‘just say no’ isn’t working and people will take drugs anyway, but if you can remove the strains that cause the most harm, then you will most likely be saving a life.

Arriving at the festival mid way through Thursday, the first thing that hits you about the festival is how unlike any other it is, with next to no queuing to get into the site, no gates between the camp site and festival ground (due to the festival not doing day tickets) and a lot of effort being put into the decorations, a lot of effort is put into making this more than just watching bands in a field, it’s an experience.


Photo credit:Giles Smith

Thursdays are always a strange feeling at a festival, there are a few bands playing but nothing major is happening, leaving you to just wander around the parts of the arena that are open and head to bed at about 12 when it all closes, at SGP it’s slightly different, although you can’t get over to the far side of the lake, you are still able to grab a massage, sing karaoke till the early hours and drink at the 24 hour bar, here the Thursday is the new Friday.

Unlike the few that were already looking a little worse for wear on the Friday morning, we were more sensible this year, determined to stay up later than the last time we came to the fest, choosing to take it easy in the day time,  Pins, Swim Deep and La Femme being the select few bands that we managed to catch, before retiring to the tents for a bit, returning at midnight to party at one of the unique venues dotted around the site, with the secret stages a particularly interesting place to party, though the one that kept us up latest on the first night was The Spiritual Playground, a one stop shop for randomness, pop music and nudity (all in the name of body confidence that is).


Photo credit:Nick Caro

Saturday started with less sleep than desired, getting back to the tents at roughly 4am and being woken by the sun at nine, the last thing any of us wanted to do was be active, choosing to devote the daytime to exploring some of the smaller parts of the festival, catching bands in the Lost Horizons yurt spa, making wings out leafs and twigs in the arts area, watching a bunch of bemused festival goers perform a maypole dance to Mozart in a maze and cheer on the dancers in the swing vs. street dance off at the amphitheatre.

Not really catching any bands all day, we got ready to have another late night of dancing and partying, venturing from venue to venue up until 3am when we were treated to te visual treat of Bowie Vs. Prince dj set, with each song being accompanied with an interesting mixture of dancers/entertainers, with everything from giant robots, butterfly aliens and fire dancers coming on stage to amaze the tent packed full of people.


Not really seeing many bands during the daytime isn’t really unusual for SGP, where three separate groups of people seem to attend, the first being people who go to see the bands, the people who go to see some bands and stay up quite late and finally the group of people that only come out at night and stay up right through to sunrise, over the weekend we attempted to be all three.

By the time Sunday rolled around, we were nearly wiped out, but still made our way over to the main stage and prepared ourselves for the world-famous pain party, surrounded by hundreds of people all armed with multiple coloured powders, hurling paint at each other and leaving everyone looking like a real life tie-dye, myself becoming a rather fetching shade of yellow. unsurprisingly after this a shower was on the cards, giving us just enough time to catch The Dog Show, drop in on a few random bands, watch two women have a boxing match while suspended in mid-air and then get our | over to the hill that overlooks the main stage, ready to enjoy the French electronica band Air, who closed out the weekend with their token mix of down tempo pop and psychedelic rock, all whilst different planes performed a series of stunts above the show ground and a barge was dragged to the middle of the lake (more about that later).

The Infamous Paint Fight

The choice of Air seemed a strange choice when I looked at the line-up, but this turned out to be a stroke of genius, with their music giving everyone the mellow come down from the weekend that was needed, preparing everyone to return to the real world and finishing with a bang, literally a bang, as the barge that I mentioned earlier was blown up in spectacular style.

Trying new things is in the Secret Garden Parties DNA, from new activities to keep you entertained between bands, music playing later into the night than most festivals would dare, line-ups that challenge preconceived notions of what should work, all combining to produce a festival that is hard to describe without using the word unique, it is way out there in terms of the UK festival scene, but well worth doing at least once.


Photo credit:Nick Caro


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