Celebrating their tenth anniversary, Secret Garden HQ certainly put on a birthday to remember. Beginning on the Thursday, thousands of revellers travelled to Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire to take part and enjoy the Garden. With the theme – standing on ceremony – festival dress up was a must. Although slightly misleading, the theme ensured a diverse range of costume. Golden Greek goddesses, Olympic torch bearers and Ancient Aztecs were caught wandering the arena.
Music was lacking on the Thursday evening, ending around midnight. The real magic began on the Friday. Highlights from the Great Stage were Little Dragon, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the musical comic, Tim Minchin and KT Tunstall. Having never seen live, but always been an avid fan since they formed, Little Dragon was nothing short of brilliant. Yukimi Nagano’s powerful vocals were never drowned out by the excited crowd. Surprisingly, ‘Wildfire’ was never performed; considering its fame, I wondered why it was not included in the set list. Perhaps, it was precisely because of this reason. Other must-sees were Electric Swing Circus, Daughter and UK hip-hop act, 4 Owls.
Moving onto the later hours, the Pagoda stage, situated on the edge of the great lake, was a hidden gem. Music from several great house, electro and dance acts kept the party going till the early hours. The likes of Zed Bias, Future Boogie djs, Waif & Strays, Seth Troxler and Disclosure graced the intimate venue. Secret Garden HQ describes the Pagoda as ‘possibly the most infamous stage’, priding themselves for being the only festival with an antique Pagoda, floating on a lake. Imagine that for a party venue! What was ingenious about the Pagoda was that there was no official line up; djs came and went when they had a spare hour or two, or when they simply wanted to carry on the party.
The Drop stage quickly became a favourite. Alike to the Pagoda in music style, most of my Sunday was spent in the shady, hidden away venue. Musical treats were plentiful, with Ben UFO, Mosca and Blawan. Having seen all three several times, I was apprehensive by the B2B nature favoured by The Drop. However I was not disappointed. The crowd and myself were dancing away for hours, with no hint of a messy mix.
To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Secret Garden HQ put on an adventurous firework display on the Saturday evening. Alongside a laser show, the fireworks proved popular. Yet, it was the make-shift ‘Island’, in the shape of two decorative heads, being set alight that truly made the festival birthday celebrations. Thousands of gardeners hurried to the Great Stage to witness this ‘offering’ for the tenth birthday of the Garden.
I only have one criticism: there were simply too many acts to see in three days. If the festival had begun on the Thursday evening, each day would have been equally weighted. Instead, I sometimes felt I was being rushed and pushed for time; four days of great music packed into three made for a confusing and sometimes stressful festival experience.
However the sheer diversity of the music offered is precisely what made Secret Garden Party great, and why it keeps attracting thousands and thousands of people year in, year out. Undoubtedly, the Secret Garden Party was a feast for the eyes, ears and imagination.