A wondrous, magical playground
Secret Garden Party 2012

What makes Secret Garden Party (SGP) stand out in the seemingly endless summer of festivals is the attention to detail. Here the Cambridgeshire countryside has been converted into a wondrous, magical playground for some 30,000 punters (Gardeners) to enjoy. To opt out of the grey, humdrum of everyday and enter into the exhilarating, sensory onslaught of the garden.

Everything here is stylised to compliment the surroundings, capitalizing on its natural beauty, and integrating the festival elements creating the elusion of an actual world. Though unfortunately, thanks to the good old British weather the main theme this year is MUD! Great big swamps of it, everywhere and on everything. It’s doesn’t, however, dampened spirits, it just makes it all the more glorious when the sun eventually pokes through the clouds.

Art plays a big part in the garden from instillations, moving theatre, circus and the imaginative costumes of the gardeners themselves. With every flicker of the eye there is more to take in. SGP is a perfect sized festival, with lots going on, plenty of stages and a diverse array of entertainment. It's easy to navigate and not over crowded. This goes a long way to creating its best feature, the gardeners, the people who attend SGP. The vibe here is mellow and mischievous and most of all, friendly.

Though SGP isn’t all about the music, it does offer up some pretty good choices and here is just a snippet:

The Great Stage
With the lake as the backdrop and cleverly situated at the bottom of a hill it's an ideal main stage. Playing host to the eagerly anticipated and not disappointing Alabama Shakes. Along with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Baxtory Dury and Lamb to mention but a few. Afternoon comedy is supplied in the risqué musical musings of Tim Minchen.

The Pagoda Stage
Tucked away around the back of the pagoda is a floating stage that spans out into the lake, with an array of cracking DJ's kicking out Ibiza tunes, it’s perfect to get down whilst the setting sun creates dancing sparkles of light on water beyond.

Where the Wild Things Are
Situated on the banks of the lake and built into what looks like a giant tree house. We managed to catch the beautiful soulful stylings of Pixie Geldof with her band, Violet. There is plenty of space to sit or dance and as the night rolls on there is a bonfire to keep us warm.

Host to the Bearded Kitten Show and designed like a mini Roman coliseum this stage certainly takes on the eccentricity of a Caligula esq bacchanal. With lots of nakedness, mud wrestling, circus, acrobatics and just outright weirdness.

Artful Badgers
A hedonistic world of pulsating beats, tribal dancing, animal heads and unrelenting madness. Not for the fainthearted tea drinkers.

There are so many more stages, side-shows, food, workshops and things to do here, it is a festival that just has it all. From dancing to chilling there is a little something for everyone. And with late licenses the party truly does continue from Thursday to Monday.

The highlight came on Saturday night as Orbital drew to a close. The sky over the lake erupted into a mesmerizing haze of kaleidoscopic coloured light, fireworks flashed and illuminating the throng of wide eyed smiling faces below. SGP we salute you for not only putting on an amazing festival but creating a whole world in which we were submersed and will never forget.

Words by Vanessa Higgns
Photo by Matt Wash

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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