It’s often said that the Secret Garden Party is one of the few festivals where the music takes a back seat to everything else that’s going on, but that’s not to say that the line-up is lacking – far from it, and as ever it’s nothing if not eclectic. Some headliners are still to be announced, but already confirmed are American hip hop heroes Public Enemy, Motown sensations Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and reggae group Fat Freddy’s Drop.
With 14 stages across the site, there’s something for all musical tastes. Those with a penchant for the ridiculous should seek out The Colosillyum – an enormous straw bale amphitheatre, famed for its mud wrestling contests and funky tunes. Or, if you fancy strutting your stuff in a ritzy boxing ring, make a beeline for the brilliantly bonkers Dance Off. The serious ravers will find their spiritual home in The Temple of Boom (with sets from Sub Focus and Gorgon City amongst others) or The Drop – a new addition last year, which hosted some of the most epic secret sets of the whole festival.
If you can face the inevitable queue, The Pagoda – a small but perfectly formed floating dance floor on the lake – has become the stuff of legend over the last few years, playing host to some of the hottest DJs in the world and boasting some top class residents (including festival founder Fred Fellowes). You could also burrow down to the woodland wonderland that is the Artful Badger, take a peek into the fantastical cradle of trees and branches that surround the Where The Wild Things Are stage, or pitch up and chill out at The Crossroads, SGP’s blues and soul tent.
Those in the loop know that SGP-ers take festival chic to a whole new level (glitter, sequins, face paints, headdresses and spandex feature heavily), and getting creative with your attire is de rigueur. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, the theme for 2014 is ‘Goodbye (to the) Yellow Brick Road’ – interpreted by the Head Gardeners as kissing goodbye to crass commercialism and the constraints of the 9-5. Be sure to flaunt your finery in the parades alongside the performers, musicians, floats, boats and more merrymakers and animal-people than you can shake a stick at.
The breathtaking art installations dotted around the site are a big part of what makes Secret Garden Party quite such a magical place to dizzy around. Most of these are kept under wraps until the gates open, but the organisers have revealed that one to look out for this year is the The Sonic Pulse Orchestra. Described as a travelling sensory experience, this purpose-built geodesic dome will take pulse readings from audience members and feed them through a piece of software to create dynamic musical compositions and projected visuals as revellers come and go. The Great Lake will once again be home to a huge masterpiece designed and built by the PirateTechnics crew – who last year created a huge sculpture of a galleon being attacked by a kraken, which was ceremoniously set on fire after the headliners Faithless finished their set on the Saturday night. Also not to be missed is the seminal Sunday morning Paint Fight: an explosion of fluorescent colour which the crowds always go wild for.
The Best of the Rest
It’s definitely not all just mindless bacchanalian-ism at Secret Garden Party; The Forum will once again stoke the embers of curious minds, featuring talks with prominent thinkers and academics and posing such questions as: is there a god? And how can we survive the apocalypse? For those in need of a little recuperation and rejuvenation (ie. everyone, by day two), the Secret Sanctuary offers a little pocket of tranquility, with yoga, massage, smoothies and hot tub and sauna experiences.
The food at Secret Garden Party is a cut above your usual festival fare, but if you want a real fine dining experience, check out the Soulfire Restaurant, which this year will present Trattoria al Giardino. A Tuscan-inspired pop-up gastro experience, where diners will be treated to authentic stone-baked pizzas, antipasti, gelato and candlelit lakeside seating.
Adult weekend tickets are £175; 24-27 July.