The Summer's Worst Kept Secret (SECRET GARDEN PARTY) Cambridgeshire

With festival season upon us and a whole host of new and exciting names added to their already bulging line-up, here at Licklist we present to you the beginners guide to a festival like none other. With more bindis than a Bollywood set and more glitter than a Liberace gig, join us as we take a trip into the weird and wonderful world of Secret Garden Party.

This year’s party will run between 24th-27th July at their now famous lakeside setting in Abbots Ripton and will see the return of the dazzling attractions that fans have grown to love. Loosely modelled on the US festival Burning Man, Secret Garden Party is not just a festival but also a pop up hedonistic paradise for you to forget about the real world for a while and lose yourself in a world of art, music, expression and all-round silliness. Populated by vivacious twenty-something-year olds ready to go further down the rabbit hole and explore the world of SGP, and old school hippies soaking up the atmosphere of the good old days, the festival’s anti-commercial ethos is the glue that holds everything together.

This year’s Wizard of Oz inspired theme, Goodbye yellow brick road, will no doubt add a special element to proceedings due to the value placed on fancy dress. Whereas many festivals often add a fancy dress theme as a side gimmick, at Secret Garden Party it’s almost an unwritten law. The amazing effort put in by the ‘gardeners’ acts as the backdrop to each year’s festival and is taken very seriously by all involved. With everything going on across the four days, it’s quite easy, and forgivable, to forget that it is still a music festival. Putting the music on pause for a second, let’s take a look at the strange and hilarious range of attractions that makes SGP so unique.

Looking for a flutter over the weekend? Then why not head down to one of the Pig races that take place over the course of the festival. Missing the football world cup? Secret Garden Party have it covered with their very own pig tossing world cup. For the spiritual lot, inquisitive about what the future holds, pop in to have you bum read by a hilariously named clairvoyant ‘asstrolagist’ (yes you did just read that sentence correctly). All the culture vultures will not be without their daily intake of knowledge, with renowned speakers such as lizard loving conspiracist David Icke appearing in tents across the site. With other events such as mud wrestling, a fiercely competitive dance off and punting across the idyllic lake plus many, many more also going on, there’ll never be a dull moment.

With all the attractions, beautiful scenery and wonderful people across the festival, it’s easy to forget the stellar lineup of bands and DJ’s that are on show. Spread across a number of big and intimate stages and tents, the acts range from house rising stars Citizen and No Artificial colours to the foul mouthed satirist Beans on Toast and chart sensations Clean Bandit. For all the dance music heads, the focus will be on The Temple of Boom, The Drop and the beautiful Pagoda which last year saw the jaw dropping surprise b2b set featuring Skream, Eats Everything, Zed Bias and Disclosure. Expect secret pop up performances and exciting b2b’s across the weekend with DJs given free roam over what they play, free from restrictions normally imposed on them at other festivals.  Secret Garden Party is perhaps the only festival where you could go punting with 2manyDjs or compete in a space hopper race against Gorgon City. Artists and DJs feel at home here; they get involved with the festival as much as the fans do, which eliminates the divide often felt between a crowd and DJs and creates a bond across each stage.

Finally, we have to mention The Lake Stage. Only accessible by boat, the Lake Stage is a unique creation; a galleon under siege by the mythical sea creature the Kraken. A stage like no other, the Lake Stage encapsulates the freethinking spirit of Secret Garden party and is the focus of the climatic end of to the weekend. Taking place just before the main headliner on the final day, the ship is set on fire as fireworks light up the night sky and thousands of people join together in a mutual sense of amazement.

By Jack Evans