The Secret Garden Party- where to start? "An extravagansa for the senses", "a grownups playground", "like stepping into Narnia" - just some of the comments I heard being bandied around last weekend. Everyone was gushing with excitement and enthusiasm and I was no exception. Only now I am struggling with how to explain my adventure. Do I want to tell everyone about this magical experience? Do I want more people to come and the festival to get bigger or change? No- I want it to stay exactly the same next year and the year after that and the years ever after - I want the Secret Garden Party to stay a secret!
I have been hearing the rumors for a few years now, friends telling me that SGP is meant to be "the one" - the festival to get along to, random people at parties saying they knew someone who has been and had the best time ever, but I never actually talked to anyone who has been themselves. Thank God (or the Goddess, as I did actually spend some time in the Goddess Temple at SGP) that I got my act together and sorted tickets before they sold out. I can confirm that it is all true Secret Garden Party is "the one".
It all looked pretty normal as we arrived, got through the gates, started setting up camp. Other festival goers were wearing all kinds of fancy dress hats, wigs and masks, but I have seen all that before. It was as we first ambled down from the camp site and through the marquees and stalls that wonders started catching our eyes. Sculptures like I have never seen before made make my mind wonder if my eyes are working properly, acrobats and performers at every turn wearing every imaginable colour. Every sort of music erupting from multiple stages along the way. On and on the festival rolled and eventually my mind adjusted to the scale of the thing. By the time we reached the Great Stage I was completely smitten but if I thought it was beautiful during the day by night I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
Green and purple lights shining through the trees around the lake make you feel like you are in Avatar especially with everyone wearing so many amazing costumes, even if you don't like fancy dress you will want to get involved at SGP. The Wear the Wild Things Are stage is made entirely of curiously curved tree branches and sits in the woods completely at home there while the music plays and we watch the boating on the lake. Following the Lanterns through the trees you will find yourself at The Artful Badger at a Hoe Down in a tree house.
Saturday is the day at the Secret Garden Party you will need your Glad and your Mad rags and whatever you have that has glitter on it. Nearly everyone congregates in all their finery for the headliners at the Great Stage and this really is a huge party. It does not really matter who is playing on stage this is a guaranteed good time. It’s pretty packed but you are never too far from the stage so you can always get a good view. I can’t overstate what a party this is and how friendly everyone is and this goes on all night wherever you get to, whoever you meet. Sunday is more laid back but still busy and most of us mustered a dance by the lake in the Sunshine with a cold if long awaited beer.
What can I complain about - not much! The toilets were the best I have seen at a festival, almost all perfectly clean, the choice of food was a joy and most reasonably priced and the stalls were all selling beautiful things I wanted to buy. I would have bought more beers but I couldn't be bothered to queue and I had not brought much with me so I didn't drink much and I could have done with more water taps being around. Apart from that it was a perfect weekend of perfect adventures with the perfect people.
On my adventures I found myself amongst many things -having a beer in a bathtub with a girl named Sally, crawling through a tube while being spun to get a proverb from a chicken, climbing a tree, swimming in the lake, watching a dance off, playing skittles, attending a bondage workshop and having a gong bath. I declined the naked sauna, danced everywhere and whilst lying down on Sunday at the Folk Lodge enjoying the Blues I was contemplating with my companion whether we were in heaven when a girl asked me to lift my head so she could give me a pillow to rest my head on in the afternoon sun. She was giving them out to all the weary souls needing to rest their heads, yes we decided, we were in heaven!
What they have managed to do (where other festivals have failed miserably) is to expand so that you have the buzz and atmosphere of a large festival while keeping the magic of a tiny festival. It feels somehow intimate and special and you can’t help feeling that you have stumbled upon a well kept secret. It’s like the most enormous house party where you sort of know everyone so you can talk to anyone and you are all there because you love the same music and people and wonders so it feels like home whatever you end up doing. Certain other festivals I have adored started out like this but have lost what made them special along the way and I sorely miss those early days. However, gliding around on the Ferris Wheel at 2am gazing at the twinkling coloured lights reflecting off the lake and hearing the music and laughter wafting up to me I have most definitely found what I have been missing and to quote one of my favourite bands - "one day like this a year will see me right"!