Hay bales for seating in the Collosillyum area. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
If Latitude is a well planned amble between the South Bank, ICA, Royal Opera House and Somerset House with added sheep, then Secret Garden Party is the biggest most eccentric three day party in the grounds of a country mansion you could never dream of. Two more diverse festivals you could not imagine.
The Party Blimp – accessible only by boat.
Music is just one of the elements that make up the Secret Garden Party experience, surely the only festival where the main acts are liable to be upstaged by a death-defying wheelchair race or a mud wrestling fight. Because the stages are not the central focus there is always space to sit down or to dance, and the natural layout of the main stage in particular means that there’s always space to see the bands properly – which makes for a far more comfortable viewing experience than at most festivals. Despite a distinct lack of well known bands the quality of music on the line up is never low, and as usual I discovered lots of great new music.
My favourite Secret Garden Party stage is built into the side of a huge tree. This year there were giant eyeballs sewn into the back and the front was made up to look like the prow of a ship, complete with a naked female figurehead. Shortly before the prow had been swung into destruction by inebriated climbing mammals Animal Kingdom took to the good ship Where the Wild Things Are with a beatific set of melodic songs that have gleaned comparisons to Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Coldplay.
Animal Kingdom by Holly Exley.
Over in the geodesic rave dome – AKA the Remix Bubble – the Lake District’s finest Burn the Negative were proving to a small but highly motivated crowd (including security on balloons) that danceable indie electro doesn’t just come out of the big cities.
Burn the Negative by Alexis West.
Secret Garden Party has expanded massively since I first came in 2004, and the more idiosyncratic attractions are now linked to the main arena by a floating bridge that caused much swaying hilarity on every crossing. As a mid afternoon treat I decided to get my toes nibbled by some miniature carp from Turkey.
Yes that’s me. White legs! Photography by Tim Adey.
The Doctor Fish has been used for centuries to cure skin ailments, and they were particularly excited by my friend Jemima’s Psoriasis. It was a very soothing experience, and my skin felt notably softer afterwards. This is the first time this particular species of fish have been imported into the UK and entrepreneur Keon Petre hopes to open a range of fish nibbling franchises.
A huge pink tent housed stalls from a carefully picked range of artists and designers including Spitalfields based illustrator Dan Hillier and jeweller Emma Ware, who makes gorgeous contemporary pieces from recycled inner tubes. Expect to hear more about her designs on this blog soon.
Fionn Regan by Abigail Daker.
Fionn Regan was the perfect treat for a sunny day, following in the traditional mould of talented Irish folk singers with added 80s McEnroe hair band action. Never a bad thing in my book.
Steve Mason by Katherine Tromans.
I knew there was a reason I felt immediately warm towards main stage act Steve Mason despite having no clue who he was – turns out he was one half of the excellent Beta Band. And anyone who twitters about Ian Tomlinson is even better in my books. Musicians with a conscience – we need more of them.
Marina and the Diamonds by Emma Block.
I’ve been a big fan of hot tip Marina and the Diamonds for some time now, but we missed most of her set whilst enjoying the most wonderful three course dinner at the Soulf Fire restaurant, housed in three yurts (read my full review here). Instead we caught the last few songs, which still gave me ample time to admire her vermillion lips and whippet thin waist: I can now confirm that she is every bit as sexy in the flesh as she comes across on record.
Afterwards we were treated to some nefarious circus fun from Down Under – including pubic angle-grinding, sword swallowing and weights hooked into eyelids. Tasteful.
I featured the Infadels way back in issue 04 of Amelia’s Magazine in 2005, and they’ve been steadily plugging away ever since. I haven’t heard any recent albums but they seemed quite happy to play lots of the old tunes, which perfectly suited the late night party crowd.
Infadels by Harriet Gray.
Most amusingly they seem to have acquired a female joint lead vocalist on one of their most famous tunes. Maybe all ageing bands will one day invite drunk negligee-wearing teenagers on board to spice things up. Oh hang on, it’s already become a trend… (see Saturday’s blog…)
The Delays by Abby Wright.
Last up on Where the Wild Things Are at gone 1am the glitter-covered Delays played a fantastically energetic set to a shockingly small crowd. “Let’s see some shoulder action,” they pleaded. “It’s not a festival without it.” Several people obligingly mounted their friends with rapidity. I hope one day this vastly underrated band finds the success they deserve. Catch our recent interview with them here.
Remember, there’s more where this came from – you can read about Saturday’s events here.
Abby Wright, Abigail Daker, Alexis West, Animal Kingdom, Beta Band, bikes, Burn the Negative, Dan Hillier, Delays, Emma Block, Emma Ware, Fionn Regan, Fish Therapy, Harriet Gray, Holly Exley, Infadels, Katherine Tromans, Marina and The Diamonds, Secret Garden Party, Soul Fire Restaurant, Steve Mason, Tim Adey, Where the Wild Things Are
- Festival Preview: Secret Garden Party
- Secret Garden Party: The Festival Preview Series
- Secret Garden Party 2010: Stylish Headwear Photo Gallery
- Charly Coombes and the New Breed at London’s Monto Water Rats, December 11th 2010, Live Review
- Secret Garden Party 2011: Festival Review