REVIEW: Cambridgeshire’s out-of-this-world Secret Garden Party is a shining star in Britain’s festival circuit

The paint fight at The Secret Garden Party.

The paint fight at The Secret Garden Party. - Credit: Archant

“This is a serious party!” claims a man who calls himself ‘the head gardener,’ and as you enter the Secret Garden Party site, neatly tucked away a few miles from Huntingdon, it is hard to argue with his statement.

Awash with colour, earth-shaking sound and eclectic fancy dress, Secret Garden Party is a spectacle like no other.

It is often said that festivals are all much of a muchness these days, but it’s safe to say that SGP breaks the mould – mostly down to its 30,000-strong clan of festival-goers, or ‘gardeners.’

Clad in glitter and sequins from head to toe and donning ingenious intergalactical-style fancy dress, this year’s theme – ‘gardener’s guide to the galaxy’ - is abided to by the book by punters, and it is their willingness to forget their troubles and launch themselves fully into the festival that helps create a vibe that other festivals will struggle to compete with.

Away from the quirkiness of the clientele, the festival itself is a joy to look at. Abstract art instalments, cleverly-made props and stages and glorious weather all do their bit in shaping a four-day festival that is a feast for the eyes, as well as the ears.

On stage, there is a myriad of entertainment across the weekend, with a strong line-up, boasting reggae legend David Rodigan, pop princess Dua Lipa, and indie hit makers Swim Deep, keeping the masses bouncing during the day, and stages like The Drop – an aptly-named DJ booth at the bottom of a hill – ensuring that the party is still going long into the night thanks to sets from Eats Everything, Bicep and Skream.

It is the smaller stages, however, where the vibe of SGP is truly felt, with the Pagoda – a beautiful floating stage out on the lake – and the Labyrinth – a clearing buried deep into the woods - giving party-goers an alternative to the bigger names on the roster.

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The festival’s Saturday Spectacular of fireworks and lasers was, as billed, spectacular, and the annual paint fight on Sunday left me and thousands of others smiling – and plastered in paint.

Festivals that have it all are hard to come by, but if your vice is stretching your sinews during a morning yoga session, stripping off and dancing on stage with a female alternative to Jesus, ‘Sheezus,’ (yes, that was on offer) or simply getting lost in the festival’s stunning scenery, then Secret Garden Party is for you.

Worlds away from last year’s muddy washout, SGP 2016 was a shining, sunny success, which left most of us, I’m sure, crashing back down to earth – and reality - on Monday after four days of out-of-this-world entertainment.

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