Secret Garden Party, Abbots Ripton Huntingdonshire
Secret Garden Party isn’t like other festivals. For starters I wouldn’t feel as if I was doing the festival a disservice or insulting the event to suggest that this is a festival of which bizarrely music isn’t the primary concern. In fact Secret Garden Party sells the majority of its tickets before the line-up is even announced and has long shied away from making high profile superstar bookings in favor of artists who fit the chilled out ethos of the festival.
Luckily, music still forms an integral part of the now well established gathering alongside a variety of arts, cusine and general curation of a happy and relaxed atmosphere. This years line up as predicted showcased a wide array of different type of music from indie to country and western to a variety of different types of electronica. This being Data Transmission and us having a penchant for all things electronic we naturally focused on the dance enthused stages but took enough time out whilst wandering round those fields in Abbots Ripton to fully immerse ourselves in the whole Secret Garden Party experience.
Located on a farm in Abbots Ripton near Huntingdon getting to the festival probably requires an extensive drive and (a designated driver) with the site several hours drive from London although we did meet several festival goers who had made the jaunt to Huntingdon via train before hopping in a taxi who claimed their journey wasn’t too arduous. After arriving at the site all memories of a tedious drive quickly evaporated as we pulled up to the field we were parking in to a blaze of brilliant sunshine which perfectly set the coming weekends countryside hedonism. As a first time attendee or ‘gardener’ as festival goers are referred to I was surprised both by the set up and the beauty of the site on offer. This isn’t a series of flat fields ala Glastonbury but a genuine countryside landscape complete with rolling hills, streams and a lake. This idyllic landscape is then utilized to the fullest by the organizers to create a unique festival weekend settlement.
As a group we decided to go for a brunch time row out on the lake around the Kraken attacking pirate ship installation that SGP has painstakingly crafted in the middle of the water and then across to the floating Pagoda stage on the waters edge. Aside from rowing the lake provides a centerpiece to the entire festival and has a designated swimming area in which revelers cooled themselves down from the blistering 30° heat. Other natural landmarks that are optimized for the festivities include a lush wood which hosts the Artful Badger stage and a steeply inclined hill which is then built up with hay bales to create a small and intimately enclosed stage. A well designed layour avoided congestion and made getting around the site from stage to stage a breeze as was heading over from the incredibly closely located camping areas. Location and design wise the whole event was an unmitigated success.
As previously mentioned it often said that the music line-up isn’t as strong as some of it’s big name rivals such as Bestival but what it lack in international mainstream star appeal it makes up for via it’s eclecticism, variety and morale boosting last minute secret guests. Firstly lets start with those acts that were on the bill and although the program seldom followed the actual schedule word quickly got around as to who was where and we managed to catch each act we were looking forward to seeing. On the mainstage we caught the dance music veterans Faithless and whilst suitably driving in a manner befitting an act as established and revered as the ‘Insomnia’ producers one can’t help but fear that their set was overshadowed somewhat by the ominously magnificent firework display that was to succeed their performance afterwards. 2 Many DJ’s also delivered a trademarkedly ecelectic set on the mainstage with their video I.D visual show giving the expectant crowd a definitive tracklist for their evenings work. Blending the EDM sounds of Afrojack into a set littered with vintage Boys Noize electro sounds and indie courtesy of Metronomy is no mean feat and the energetic set they produced kept the party vibe going throughout. Special mention needs to go out to their acid segment in which several classic trax by DJ Pierre made an apperance much to the delight of this 303 loving reviewer.