The Big One: Secret Garden Party

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Lewis Brimblecombe | 20 July 2009

What is it?

Winner of the Best Small Festival at the UK Festival Awards 2008 and set against the back drop of the Cambridgeshire fenlands, Secret Garden party is one of 2009’s most exclusive “boutique” festivals. Like many of its competitors it offers an alternative festival experience, more focused on broad contemporary arts and philosophical musing than drunken recreations of ‘Wonderwall’ outside sweaty beer tents.  However unlike some of its competitors Secret Garden party is not just about fey contemplation, Descartes and djembes, it is differentiated by having a rare collection of new and exciting musicians ready and willing to turn things up a notch.   

Where and when?

The festival runs from 23-26 July, in a secret location just outside of Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. Ticket holders will be told when they received tickets of its exact location.

Who to watch?

Jarvis Cocker (Saturday –The Great Stage)
Following a consummate performance  headlining the John Peel Tent at Glastonbury, The Godfather of Brit Pop will no doubt be presenting his music with usual unadulterated zeal. Whilst Jarvis is not known for dipping into his Pulp back catalogue, expect a great response to his solo material and who knows he may take a trip down memory lane for this most whimsical of festivals.  

Dan Black (Music For Babylonians: Where the Wild Things are Stage)
Art school disco funk is a combination that would fall on unappreciative ears in many fields in the UK, but Secret Garden Party looks likely to be the ideal venue for Black to try to live up to the buzz surrounding him and garner some serious attention and possibly adoration.

The Holloways (Sounds of Eden: The Living Room Stage)
Always threatening to enter into the mainstream, The Holloway’s catchy calypso infused tunes, including the superb ‘Generato' are a welcome addition to the Secret Garden Party’s line-up. They will be plugging there new album ‘No Smoke, No Mirrors’ and it will be interesting to see how it holds up amongst more established bands.

One to miss

Noah and the Whale
(The Great Stage)
 Still finding it difficult to break out of the one hit wonder classification that their hit ‘5 Years Time’ firmly placed them in, Noah and the Whale’s bland chirping is unlikely to be sufficiently weighty to provide the Secret Garden revellers with the depth they demand.

Playing a rare festival date

(The Great Stage)
Having never quite lived up to the successes of contemporaries such as The Rifles, they are still not a band to be ignored. Dogs’ only major festival performance this summer is well worth a viewing for anyone hoping to escape the whimsy of the festival for half an hour and enjoy some no messing, snarling, guitar filled tunes.

Inside tip

Emmy The Great
(The Lake Stage)
The London based singer is surely to be a hidden highlight of this year’s festival. In much the same way Lilly Allen played Secret Garden Party before her first single was released, the festival has a knack for catching female singers on the cusp of greatness. Emmy’s folk enthused, ephemeral love songs are sure to wow the audience. One not to miss.

Be at Secret Garden Party if you like…
Transcendent thought, environmentalism and dancing with the mentality that you are unashamed about the lightness of your soul. Don’t mistake the event as just a bohemian fashion show there is a real sense of fun and artistic integrity about the event.

Avoid if you like…
Aggression, grunge and burning camping equipment.  This is a festival that prides itself on higher pleasures and drunken carnage is definitely not considered part of the recipe for spiritual enrichment.

Festival tactics

Relax, be open minded and enjoy the festival for what it is. Try to see as many new bands as possible and challenge yourself by embracing something new. Allow yourself to be dazzled by circus entertainers and get all cathartic listening to poets. To use the old 60’s cliché “just free your mind man.”

Fashionista or Folky?
A true fusion of the two.  Whilst those in the very luxurious boutique camping are certainly at the very cutting edge of Framping (fashionable camping) trends, there is an inescapable depth to the festival. If anywhere was to demand the coining of the term Folkanista, Secret Garden Party would be it.

Alcohol of choice
Red wine. Specifically a 1987 Châteauneuf-du-Pape served in a cup made entirely of recycled copies of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Take your mum score - 7/10
– Whilst the line-up is largely modern and may be of limited appeal, there is still enough variety for the older crowd to enjoy.  If your mum is relaxed, open-minded and up for a potentially spiritual experience, she will love it.

Can I still get tickets?
The festival is now completely sold out.

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