Secret Garden Party 2012
Unlike adolescent experiences of the festival scene a decade ago, when, to our teenage selves, a festival meant Leeds, tins of Carling and big-riffing headliners like The White Stripes, Blur and System of a Down, Secret Garden Party is an entirely different beast. As it’s gorgeously designed programme suggests; “Don’t put yourself in the chains of timetables, meeting points and must sees.” It is, in many ways, a festival for the more seasoned festival-goer – an event to be explored and discovered piece-by-piece. As such, when The Upcoming’s Abigail Moss and Toby Hill ventured to Cambridge for their first ever SGP – one as an adventuring roamer, the other as a facilitator of madness with seasoned SGP patrons the Tax Deductible Theatre Company, two wildly different, but equally gardener-spirited weekends were to be had.
Secret Garden Party 2012 – According to Garden Explorer Toby Hill:
The festival site is swimming with wildly diverse stages and setups, from the “pagan paradise” of the Artful Badger stage, located deep in dappled woodland, to the famous Pagoda which juts out over a glittering lake.
Even the bigger, fortress-like stages are built with childlike fun in mind. The Temple of Boom, the festival’s main dance stage, is formed by four-storey hay bales thoughtfully arranged to facilitate clambering up to the highest point. And so, deep into Friday night, or possibly Saturday morning, my friends and I encamped in the area for hours and joined the people dancing to seamless runs of superb sets. Scroobius Pip invoked the spirits of all-night, wide-eyed dancing just after midnight, with an upbeat groove concocted by a full live band. Later, Mixhell – the drummer from experimental metal band Sepultura – thrashed his kit to a fast-paced medley of electro. Things slowed a little with the sparse, swampy, disorientating dubstep beats of True Tiger, before picking up pace again as the sky lightened with Wilkinson’s drum ‘n’ bass frenzy.
Awaking the next day beneath a sheen of sweat, we staggered from a roasting tent and set out in search of somewhere cool to snooze. The shade of the trees that enclose the Artful Badger stage seemed a sensible choice and we climbed the ladder into its 12-foot treehouse. Someone called Stephen Hancock was already at the decks, playing a soothing soundtrack of birdcall over mellifluous ambient beats.
That Saturday night, the invisible hand conducting the weekend spun its most magical spells. Guided by friends, we found ourselves atop a hill overlooking the lake just as SGP’s famous firework display whistled into the air. The heavens became a black fabric for an artist’s canvas and chatter dissolved into exhalations of awe as a kaleidoscopic dance of colour and fire skimmed across the night sky. Just as it came to an end, the floating wooden structures at the centre of the lake erupted into flame. Simultaneously, a low hum burst into tunefulness and lasers swept from the Great Stage as 90s trance legends Orbital thrummed into life. All across the hillside people raved as if the acid house wave had never broken.
Nothing could have topped this visual and auditory feast, so it was fortunate that we followed it by something completely different – a smattering of jaunty Scottish eccentricity. In the Woodburner tent, nudist folk act The John Langan band played rollicking ceilidh tunes while completely naked, exhorting a muddy crowd to join their celebration of the human form.
It seemed hard to imagine how it could get more colourful, but the brains behind the festival have found a way to turn everyone into walking vials of 60s Psychedelic. In the dazzling Sunday afternoon sun, a 3,000-strong paint fight erupted by the Great Stage. Balls of paint were passed to innumerable hands and then launched into the air, to explode and rain bright colours down on everyone.
And so we danced away the remainder of the festival among a patchwork of moving colours.
Travelling back on the train on Monday morning, among a horde of comatose bodies in wellington boots, a sense of intense satisfaction mingled with the foul odour hanging in the carriage. Secret Garden Party 2012 was a tremendously enjoyable festival.
Abigail Moss and Toby Hill