Secret Garden Party: Mud Drenched And Dancing

  • Words: Sara Darling
  • Photography: Christopher Sims

Alice in Wonderland creator Lewis Carroll would have been impressed with this year’s Secret Garden Party. It had it all: music, obstacle courses, interactive science experiments, fireworks, dance offs, cabaret, funfair rides, comedy, dressing up, karaoke, glow sticks, plus a plush sit down restaurant. The theme of ‘Childish Things’ would be right up his street, too.

As with most British festivals, it’s always a bit risky to expect a heatwave, or even two sunny days in a row. Despite assurances that the last couple of years had been scorching, this year’s downpour-infused SGP had us praying for a dry one.

It was impossible to even try and avoid the mud so embracing the sludge seemed to be everyone’s only option. Much  to the distress of hopeful fancy-dressers, the weather held many people’s costumes hostage and forced a last second change of plan. Layers triumphed and proved the best gear to cruise through the multitude of indoor tents in. The Kitsch Inn was a particular favourite and featured DJs spinning a selection of disco-funk and afro, with some electronica thrown in. Anything could have been playing however, the crowds seemed almost obvious as hands and macs and arms were thrown into the air, just happy to be out of the rain.

Stumbling across underground acts and artists should be at the heart of any festival. With no itinerary and the SGP “Guide To Having Fun” booklet nothing but a a mushy mess, wandering seemed the best tactic. This meant we could try our best to swerve the muddiest parts of the festival and preserve layers for as long as possible.

A quick pit stop at the boxing ring-styled Dance Off stage to gawp at the exhibitionists, who obviously were beyond the notion of the pouring rain and were all locked into a competition to be crowned the best dancer in a mile radius.

The first day was a soaking wet, frantic montage of music and half-naked humans. relentless trips back to our tent to stay dry kept the trenchfoot at bay and day two was, mercifully, promising the camp some drier conditions.

So, the second day came and we retreated back to Toad Hall Bar and spied the previous night’s causalities before heading the The Sanctuary, which did what it says on the tin and offered a haven for jangled nerves and tired feet. Saturday morning remained fairly sunny so the main clothes stall ‘The Secret Emporium’ got hit up for some festival treasures. Anything worth buying wold surely have to be abandoned after an hour of trying to cram it into a rucksack, so people seemed to be in window shopping mode.

The ultimate temptation came in the form of a wood-fired hot tub complete with a hot shower and champagne, atop an open roofed bus. In the context of a festival this is a mouthwatering concept, but sadly it was fully booked. The Pagoda Stage was the spot for any early-morning revelers not shopping or passing out face down in a muddy oblivion. A few of the fancy dress highlights include Toy Story’s Woody and Sherk’s Princess Fiona, which were all raving to a mash up of Fleetwood Mac.

The Secret Garden Party is a must for anyone to try once. It truly has something for everyone, and even if we came home with a sniffy nose, a wrecked tent and not much sleep, we met some mighty fine people, and left with some chaotic memories.