The dust has finally settled on the festival fields at Abbots Ripton, the hangovers have eased off and we’re all starting to drift back to reality with a bump. Life just isn’t the same after Secret Garden Party, like coming down from a psychedelic trip the colours just don’t look as bright any more, and anyone who is still finding glitter everywhere is sadly reminded of those precious four days of complete freedom and escapism. After attending last year’s festival for the first time and having the most amazing experience, I wondered how 2014 would ever live up to the incredible line-up, entertainment and all those special people we met along the way. But I shouldn’t have worried, if anyone was up to the challenge of beating last year’s event, it’s the team behind one of the country’s most beautiful festivals.
Secret Garden Party is more than just a festival, it is a whole experience, and while the line-up may entice you along, it is the quirky and strange memories that stay with you long after you return home. This year was no exception and my mind is still reeling from the things I saw, at least I think I saw… My favourite two places at the festival this year completely blew my mind and I have the best, most confusing, memories of each. First up, Bearded Kitten’s Colo-Silly-Um was one of the most spectacular stages and although I thought it was a shame it had moved location within the festival, it certainly didn’t affect how much time I spent in there. The days were filled with hilarious games that had onlookers cheering and joining in with everything from naked jelly wrestling – which is possibly one of the funniest things I have ever seen – and boxing matches between blindfolded individuals suspended high above the stage. At night, the stage transformed from crazy fun to incredible music, huge lightshows and was packed out with revellers desperate to get in. I was gutted not to catch any of the secret sets after catching both Nero and Chase & Status at last year’s festival, but I was just so easily distracted with all the other awesome acts throughout the festival.Not enough weirdness for you? Well, when things seemed a little too “normal” we had no choice but to head straight for The Dance Off where absolute chaos awaited us. I don’t remember The Dance Off from last year but it certainly left a lasting impression this time around, particularly after getting caught in a very strange dance off between an old man with a walking stick and a bunch of guys who decided windmilling their willies was a winning move. Very odd but absolutely hilarious! This venue was also incredible for catching the Headjacker guys who were standing among the crowd and performing incredible magic/card tricks – one guy came up to me and had me pull a huge nail out of his nose! Elsewhere, one thing I heard rumours of throughout the festival and have since seen hundreds of photos of, was the sunflower field that could be found through a portaloo with no back! I’m so sad to say I never found this despite looking everywhere, it looked absolutely stunning though and just added to the beauty of the festival.The line-ups, as ever, were fantastic and although we felt there was less of the quirky and smaller acts that there were performing along hidden stages in the woods this summer; we were more than happy with the ones we saw. This year’s festival had an amazing selection of reggae and acoustic acts and we caught an amazing performance by Mighty Leap in the Artful Badger Woods that had everyone dancing and singing along. Over on one of my favourite stages – Where The Wild Things Are – we caught some amazing new talent including Kimberly Anne who really brought us all back to life after a first heavy night at the festival. I spent more time at The Great Stage than ever before, and with such amazing acts lined up to play, who could blame me? Mo, Clean Bandit, Hercules & the Love Affair and Little Dragon were all incredible and it was particularly good to see Clean Bandit finally on a main stage and kicking ass.
King Charles were stunning and I was completely blown away with Foxes’ performance, but I’m sad to say I was pretty disappointed by Public Enemy after expecting a standout performance, and from the comments I heard from groups around me, I think the feeling was shared. The group spent a lot of time talking and advertising their Instagram and not enough time kicking off with the big songs we all know and love. The Great Stage picked It back up the next day with my favourite set from David Rodigan which was just perfection in the sunshine after the paint fight. Then that night there were more amazing performances from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – damn that woman has a lot of sass and huge voice – and of course Fat Freddy’s Drop smashed it!Secret Garden Party 2014 reached new levels of enchantment and with more sparkle than ever packed into the stunning fireworks display – my personal highlight – and the ritual burning of the lake stage, it really is a festival fit for a prince. I was devastated not to spot Prince Harry among the revellers, but it just shows you that Secret Garden Party must be doing something right if the party prince is giving it his seal of approval. I’m just curious to know how on earth they will beat this next year, and can’t wait to find out. I’m just glad that in the meantime, I have a few days to recover before heading to Eastern Electric this weekend for the next festival, otherwise I would have justification for some serious post-festival blues.
Did you go to Secret Garden Party? What was your favourite part of the festival?
- This review was originally published on This Festival Feeling – click here to see the original.