Virtual Festivals Vs. The Head Gardener

Fred Fellowes on the 11th Secret Garden Party

Virtual Festivals Vs. The Head Gardener

Photographer: Joel KnightChris Swindells on 27 February 2013

Secret Garden Party is an annual celebration of all things festive and artful; the independent, sponsor-free festival welcomes theatre groups, artists, performers and most importantly you, the Gardeners, to join the greatest party on the planet. The festival takes place at Mill Hill Field, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire from 25-28 July 2013.

Looking back on 2012, how did you enjoy your 10th birthday Party?

It went brilliantly, and thank goodness the rain did stop before the party started, that always helps. By Sunday it had dried out, so it had gone from muddy to dry, which is always a good gradient, as opposed to dry to muddy over the weekend.

We were incredible proud, or I was incredible proud, of all my team for how they performed and of all that came for how they embraced the adversity, at least to start with.

How are the preparations coming together for 2013?

It's going really well. You always hit a few hiccups. This is probably the first year we've had all of our first choices come in for headliners and the weather has been quite kind to us for all of the developments and improvements we've done on site, we've done a bit of landscaping and we've created a new lake, which has opened up a whole new area. All in all we've had a great winter and we're getting quite excited and tingly about the summer.

The line-up seems as eclectic as ever, is there any particular names on the bill you're particularly looking forward to?

Django Django we were desperately hoping to play for us last year but it's almost more exciting to have them this year and to put them on as a headliner on the main stage, which I know that they more than capable of smashing. I have such a soft spot for Bastille as well, so that's something I'm really looking forward to. But then there's some really lovely and quirky acts on the Wild Things Stage, such as Public Service Broadcasting, Eliza and the Bears and Wolf Alice which I'm definitely putting in my diary to make sure I'm in front of.

With the new lake and amphitheatre, what sort of work and team goes into planning the landscape and site?

There's a whole crazy gold course of new mounds and water features that have sprung up, there to delight and confuse people who are familiar with the site. Obviously we're planning even more surprising and impressive things to do in the middle of the lake on the Saturday night and anyone who was there last year will know all the exciting things that happened last year in the sky and we're hoping to come up with even more surprising things that will go on throughout the weekend. The name of the game is always trying to improve on last year and a lot of thought goes into all of it obviously, I think we normally take 3 or 4 weeks off after the event and then we are all sort of back in the office, almost 10 people working 5 days a week around the clock thinking up what to do next. I feel a huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes, a far larger team than I think people might imagine.

The Secret Forum has really grown as well?

And the secret forum has, and I think we should put this into the top announcement, somewhere in-between Django Django and best feel but we have David Ike speaking. I think we might even try to get him to go on the Main stage. That really fits into our theme. So you know get your purple tracksuits out, and hear all about the lizards.

There's plenty of crazy to be had, and I noticed Professor David Nutt too?

He is incredibly well informed, a member of the intellectuals of the world, and he knows a hell of a lot I think he was Drugs czar was his official name.

I think he said horse riding was more dangerous than ecstasy?

Which obviously is not for me to comment on, we highly admire anyone who challenges the common thinking, especially knee jerk thinking. You know it's always very interesting to here a well informed counter argument to commonly held beliefs and I think his expertise is not just on the small amount of illegal chemicals he was thrust into the limelight for. He was obviously in his job, in the role for way more than that and so I am really excited to actually hear what he is going to bring to the forum and talk about.

Superstition is the theme for 2013. Are you superstitious about anything?

I salute magpies and I probably wouldn’t choose to walk under a ladder, I think that’s it. I don’t throw salt over my shoulder or anything like that.

How about black cats?

Well I own a black cat so I think that kind of nulls and voids that whole principle, but I'm sure I have broken a mirror in the last 7 years so I can’t hold to that one either.

If there were one thing to say to gardeners old or new, what would be the one thing they cannot miss at Secret Garden Party 2013?

I have to say, it is a toss up between Django Django on Friday night or Bastille and The Stypes as support. I think all together the one thing not to miss is the whole party because our one principal is it's not about being a spectator, it is the whole gamut. I think anyone who has been before will know there is truth in this and anyone who hasn’t should pay attention - this year is going to be better than last year and that is saying something.

Thank you for your time

Brilliant thanks.

Click here for the Secret Garden Party line-up and ticket news.

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