Review: Secret Garden Party 2011

Discussion in 'festivals' started by paolo, Jul 25, 2011.

  1. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    The word was, of course, that SGP would be overrun with public school types. Being whacky, and annoying. A posh people's pretend festival.

    As if by magic, on the first morning, Sophie from next door asked if I had a cafetiere. She was there along with friends Jess and Leanne. It would have been easy to write the festival off there and then.

    Except that the night before, I'd got in - late - and walked around the site. I barely spoke to anyone, simply because the whole thing was mesmerisingly beautiful. The lake, the grounds, and the never ending curiosities.

    (The other beautiful thing is the people. Blimey. One game at SGP you might get tired of is "spot the ugly person". That could takes *days*)

    By the time the following morning came around, the cafetiere request was easy to shrug off. As it happened they were great neighbours. They shared a guilty smile when I said thought it was going to be posh people hell hole, and to their credit they'd borrowed a knackered old live-in ambulance and weren't shy of getting stuck into partying.

    I spent the next day or so wandering around. The name - these days at least - is a bit misleading. It's not small. Not in any sense. To loop the whole thing, not stopping, must take about two hours. With destractions, there's a full day of never seeing the same thing twice. It's now at 26k from what I've read. And - I believe - they're leaving it at that. Good call.

    The big thing is stuff to get involved in. There's loads of it. Everywhere you look. Take a boat ride, go swimming, play giant jenga. At one point I passed a sign for naked knitting. ("Women's 4pm, Mixed 5pm"). There was an amazing venue called (I think) the Badgers Set, hidden away in some trees, running over multiple levels.

    Everywhere there seem to be new things to find. I passed "Pootopia" (compost toilets) which had turned into Madonna hits cheese rave. And then the Collisilleum. An epic straw built venue with some hoofing DJs until - umm - 4am was it? 5am? With about 1000 people lined up the steep rake, all facing into the pit, dancing their arses off. It made the usual festival "dance tent" look like utter rubbish.

    It was the night though that, erm, the very very lovely people who attend gave me some very very lovely droogs. So I didn't sleep. And then was called to go and take some photos of Arcadia's latest creation... the human crossbow. Despite being verrrrry tired, I managed to make it over to see them firing one of their main men off the back of a truck into the lake. (Photos to follow).

    Things like that seem to be typical of SGP. They get away with all sorts of things that you wouldn't think would allowed these days.

    Is it a bit pricey? Well, I don't think it is. There's a BYOB limit (hideously enforced last year apparently, but better managed this year). They say they have to do it, to pay for all the stuff that's laid on. I can believe it. And draught 5% beer (San Miguel) or cider (Aspalls) at £4.10 - whilst not cheap - certainly beats £4 a *can* at alot of the Bestival bars, and is only marginally more expensive than Glastonbury (although that has unlimited BYOB).

    Any gripes? Well, I can't remember seeing water points. And the sound on the main stage when I went to see Blondie was a bit rubbish. But then easily made up for by the very epic burning of the stage in the lake. What festival sets fire to a stage? On the Saturday? And such a beautiful stage too, a giant insect. It's something you watch and think "these people are mental". And that makes you smile - alot.

    For me, if Glastonbury didn't exist, Secret Garden Party would be the best festival ever. Full stop. The end.
  2. newbie

    newbie undisambiguated


    remind me to reread this sometime early next summer :)
  3. Onket

    Onket Je suis [CONTENT REMOVED]

    Sorry to bang on about Fusion again, paolo, but the 'badger's set' and the set up of the dance arena bit sound like they are straight from there. :)
  4. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    It wouldn't surprise me if alot of things - I mean generally in the UK, not specifically SGP - are 'borrowed' from there. And then, back here, are sprinkled with alot of budget.

    As I said - after you pointed at Fusion - it's massively on my list. I don't think it'll disappoint. :)
  5. Tort

    Tort Well-Known Member

    Agree with you on pretty much all points mate. It is pricey but with the new Campervan wristband scheme we were able to bring in up to 4 cans every time we went back to the van. Security were still rather sketchy and you're right about the volumes on the main stage which were pretty poor. But otherwise a wonderful weekend. The music is secondary with so much more to see and do than you get at any other festivals of an equivalent size. But still some fantastic performances especially Martha & the Vandellas on Sunday night. Can't believe she's 70!!! The "Electric Spectacle" was bizarre but very cleverly done, you could handle snakes, scorpions, cameleons and giant cockroaches at the Science tent & Strange-Fish was very proud of her origami cat. Craziest moment however was the "Last Aid" crew, a demonic bunch of paramedics, who woke a girl sleeping under the tree by chucking her on a stretcher & waving a running chainsaw over her head! Photos later this week hopefully.

    btw the bit in the trees is called the "Artful Badger" ;)
  6. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    Ahhh, so that's what Last Aid was about :D I heard my neighbours talking about it yesterday.

    Looking forward to your photos. :)
  7. Private Storm

    Private Storm Smell The Glove

    Loved it too. Decent weather, great laugh and a huge amount of things to see and do. The security were very dodgy though - saw them opening people's tents and trying to surprise people up to no good. Also saw two of them run someone over in a jeep....and then drive away without even stopping. Also had a mate mugged there, but fair play to the police, they caught the guy (for something else) and he got the phone back.

    Favourite bit was the mud wrestling. And talking to mentals. And the Artful Badger stage. And....and....and :)
  8. Tort

    Tort Well-Known Member

    Not wishing to concentrate too much on the negatives but by all accounts they were scouring the campsites listening out for nos chargers. They would then confiscate the charger, turf out the occupants and go through the tent with a fine toothed comb, which I'm not sure is even legal without the owner's permission or a police presence. There were also stories of camping gas cylinders being confiscated at the gates even though they were available from the camping shops and the FAQs on the website clearly state that "We will allow camping stoves unless they present a fire hazard when there are so many tents close by, so please be careful!"
  9. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    I saw a group having their all their nitrous kit confiscated. Although TBF they were doing it next to the bar above the main stage, which was a bit naive.

    I thought SGP explicitly banned NOs, or am I imagining that?

    (Have to admit I'm not a fan of hearing the pssssss sound all night and day in the campsite.)
  10. Teaboy

    Teaboy It definitely looks brighter over there..

    According to a copper friend of mine its not legal, but then again what can you do at the time? Same happened at en-dorset.
  11. BigTom

    BigTom Well-Known Member

    There was a lot of nos going on.. camped next to some nos heads.. thankfully they mac'd it all on the thursday night so I didn't have to put up with the tsss all weekend. Not that I'm happy with people getting their tents searched because of it mind, anymore than I would for any other drugs.
    I'm not entirely sure why they are so heavy on nos tbh, even though all the little canisters and balloons make a horrible mess (more so I'd say than the cups/cans form alcohol), but I would like it to not be so popular.. glade 2006 was the worst though, never anywhere as bad as that..
    seemed like more balloons/canisters on the ground in the mornings this year than previous years..

    anyway, I though it was a bit mediocre this year, only one act I didn't know that I heard & really liked (little mystics .. somewhere in the electro-swing / gypsy jazz / ska spectrum).. Blondie was ok (but sounded better from front of house than right in front of the stage), Martha Reeves was awesome.. Ghostpoet was decent but took 3 or so songs to get going.. needs more practice playing live I reckon to get fully tight with the drummer/guitarist, possibly because his lyrics aren't tight to the beats anyway, which worked on the album but in places really didn't work live.. still good mind.
    but there was a moshpit for the destroyers 3rd gig of the day on Sunday, and I've been longing to mosh to them for many years so that made up for all of it and was worth the whole weekend.
    Oh, Alabama 3 & The Correspondents were also good.
    Mystery Jets sounded crap from the song and two halves I heard (came in partway through one song, didn't like it, listened to another one didn't like it, left partway through the third tune which I didn't like).. there were also a lot of other rubbish acts I didn't listen to very much of.

    I tend to be more into the music than other things at festivals though.. not bothered by much of the other stuff. Thought it was better than last year, think they struggled with a large growth in numbers and did the right thing to keep the numbers the same (or thereabouts) this year..
  12. Boycey

    Boycey juvenile rave slut

    very true that.
  13. strange-fish

    strange-fish no decisions...

    Your initial start was exactly what I found last year, which was one of the reasons I wasn't going back that and the bastards on security and the lack of any reasonable response to my totally reasonable email to the organisers. But .... a number of the bands I really wanted to see - I changed my mind (I believe it is a perogative of my sex:)). Plus they changed the rules about booze from the van field

    I have to say I found it different this year, better mix of people. Security were still a bit - well - uninformed shall we say. But had an amazing time and sorry never got to see the arcadia creation! Can't wait to see your photos. All in all I will return to see all the things I didn't get round to this time. Trouble is you find a lovely place and end up staying there.

    Re pricey - I believe they did the £4.00 a can when the bar ran out of draught.... and still don't think they should charge so much with such a BYO restriction. Other festivals manage to keep the prices down and are not so strict on BYO.

    It is a great festival - a lot is put on - but you do have to remember that a lot of that is done for free (ticket) or/and with grants from arts organisations.

    Great time, interesting stuff, lots of fun and even some amazing music - not least Martha and the Vandellas on Sunday made my weekend and the sound was better than for Blondie - but everyone agrees that was sooooo crap.
  14. newbie

    newbie undisambiguated

    maybe I won't think about going next year :(
  15. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    Oh I dunno... You'll disappear anonymously into the background, eclipsed by a sea of beauty.

    Or at least, I think that's what I was doing ;)
  16. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    I know what you mean about finding a nice place and staying there. I'm now re-reading the SGP website and realising how much I missed. That's a good thing.

    Maybe there are other festivals out there that have this level of quality and nearer £3 a pint prices, but I've not heard of them. I know alot of the 'stuff' put on comes from just wristband giveaways, but there's also a fair bit of kit that I doubt they can get by that means. The illumination of the trees, the lake, the temporary bridges, and - as I understand it - a bit of relandscaping too. I'm entirely speculating, but I'd hazard a guess they're not making much money (if they're making money at all).

    Then again, I think my tastes in festivals is towards ones with bigger production values, so I'm probably not a good judge of value for money at the more basic end.

    Oh and Martha and the Vandellas did sound great, even from the other side of the lake!

    I spent alot of after-dark time in the Lizard Cafe / stage thing. And Chai Wallahs. Neither of those two places would even register for me at Glastonbury, but at SGP they seemed to fit my mood just right. Endless great chats with randoms, many whisky coffees. Good times. I'm already missing it and can't wait to go back again. My mood right now reminds me of coming back after my first Glastonbury. :( and :) all at once.
  17. sim667

    sim667 Licking windows on the 303 bus.

    I'd always heard there's very little money made from it, although secret productions are starting to run and be involved in other festivals, i.e. glade and wilderness....... so maybe between the three of those they do alright.
  18. Diamond

    Diamond The Red Baron

    It was the first festival that I've been to and I had great fun up until v.early on the Saturday morning when I burnt out in a rather unpleasant way.

    Ended up scarpering on the Saturday afternoon which I really regret, although at the time it seemed the only way to go. I wonder how many people that happens to. Maybe not that many but personally I just wasn't able to get the pace right.

    My friends who stayed said that the Sunday was particularly awesome - with the paint fight and what have you.
  19. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    If it's any consolation, I was 'finished' by Sunday lunchtime after having a rather full-on Saturday night.

    I went to bed early Sunday night, almost nothing to drink, and after breakfast on Monday morning started to feel vaguely human again, and thankfully ok to drive home.

    It seems like quite an easy place to over do it. I suspect a few people end up broken before the end.
  20. Diamond

    Diamond The Red Baron

    Yeah, I think I got it a bit wrong right from the start. I hadn't been to a 4-day affair of any kind before and, having heard about the general gist of things, hit the ground running so to speak. I should have taken more time to relax and unwind on the Thursday night before exploring on the Friday afternoon and only then moving up through the gears on the Friday night.
  21. kevkaos

    kevkaos Well-Known Member

    v cheap beer and cider £2.50 a can or £3 for real ale of local strong cider no limit on byob
    loads of stuff going on
    only 7,500 crowd
    wkd music and production on site
  22. BigTom

    BigTom Well-Known Member

    also just speculation but I would agree they aren't making much money, but then it's not like they need to either.. lots of it does get done on wristband giveaways but they still spend a huge amount, not many festivals of that size would have big LED screens on their main stage, or have the huge number of little stages that sgp does. They certainly don't shy away from spending the money on production, that's for sure! And I bet acts like Blondie & Martha Reeves cost a fucking fortune.

    The paint fight :D Always enjoyable to watch..
  23. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    I've not been to Beatherder. Have you been to SGP?
  24. Tort

    Tort Well-Known Member

    Have to agree with Kevkaos here. Whilst nowhere near the same scale as SGP, Beat-herder definitely goes well out of its way to provide a lot of the quirkiness that you find at SGP but at a fraction of the cost. In fact the real ale was still only £2:50 a pint this year, only the cider was £3:00 and it was proper decent 6.3% abv stuff too. Plus you could bring your own without limitation. I loved SGP but I still don't think their pricing policy adds up whereas Beat-Herder gives genuine value for money. You should give it a go. ;)

    e2a & they've got a kickass Funktion 1 PA on the mainstage too which SGP could have definitely done with.
  25. strange-fish

    strange-fish no decisions...

    You definitely should - it is an amazing little festie, tix are still under £100 and loads of quirky stuff going on, not least in the Working Mens Club !!! Some of the Arcadia crew there too. Admitedly it is much smaller than SGP but for the size still amazing.
  26. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    Beatherder recommendation noted.

    (Bear in mind my *very* low boredom thereshold though. At BT, I think I felt I'd seen all there was to see in about 90 minutes. An admirably priced festival, but probably not for me again unless I'm gagging to be out to play in May ;) )
  27. William of Walworth

    William of Walworth Festographer

    I've never made SGP, it sounds pretty damned lively! Nice reviews. Looking forward to paolo's pix.

    ETA : Ah, OK just seen the Arcadia Human Crossbow thread at least :)

    Would I go though (highly theoretical question at the moment ... )??

    The anti-BYOB thing is always an offputter

    (as might be the apparant absence of proper ale?? in the beer tents :hmm: ;) ).

    But plenty of other stuff about this sounds like I'd want to sample it one day ... :confused:.

    (When I've had a mini lottery win :p )
  28. William of Walworth

    William of Walworth Festographer

    Beatherder would be a bit more of a likely proposition probably -- from all I've heard it sounds fantastic. That is if getting that far North could ever be managed :(
  29. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    Have to admit I was in more of cider (and whisky coffee :cool:) mood, so I didn't clock if they had any ale. It was Peppermint bars though, who I'm sure manage to bring ale at some other festivals (???).

    The BYOB limit though is - although I've been defending it so far - massively harsh for those in tents. It works out to 3 cans a day. And if you're dipping in to cover when the bars are shut, or a 'breakfast of losers' ( like me :) ) that means every beer is going to be coming from the bars.

    Tell you what though, they were allowing any old van in the camper fields. Panel vans, all sorts. Borrow an old transit, then you can carry 4 beers each every day into the festival, and all you can drink back at the van. ;)
  30. Tort

    Tort Well-Known Member

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