Secret Garden Party 2009

Britain's most laid back festival returns for year five.

Article by Finbarr Bermingham | 05 Jun 2009

Whilst most festivals trade blows with the announcement of heavyweight act after act in an attempt to attract revellers in their droves, the people at Secret Garden Party prefer to do things slightly differently. Tucked away in rural Huntingdon (which graced the front cover of Boxtree’s prestigious Book of Crap Towns II and was once quoted by no less than Eamon Holmes to be the “most depressed place in Britain”) it’s billed as “a space for creative expression and thoughtful anarchy,” without major sponsors and with an emphasis on ethics.

So, yeah. Basically it’s a big hippy fest in the back arse of nowhere.
On a more serious note, though, Secret Garden Party is said to be the most chilled out date on the UK festival calendar. It started out in 2004 with only 2000 in attendance, in the backyard of local aristocrat Lord Ramsey. It aimed, and still tries, to provide an alternative to those who still wanted to get away for a weekend’s music without the hassle and stigma normally associated with the likes of Glastonbury, Reading or V Festivals. That in mind, 23% of takings goes towards improving facilities at the festival, compared to only 19% going on performers’ fees and a meagre 10% being paid out to the event organisers.

Reflectively, the line up isn’t spectacular, but there are certainly some standout acts. Jamaican ska veterans Toots and the Maytals, along with iconoclastic Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker are undoubtedly the two most renowned names on the roster. Thereafter, things get a little more eclectic. Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela will no doubt seek to capitalise should the sun come out, whilst acclaimed London anti-folkster Emmy The Great is a welcome addition.

Other highlights include Canadian electro popster Caribou, all female Swedish twee outfir Those Dancing Days, Icelandic songstress Emiliana Torrini, hotly tipped soul diva VV Brown, critically acclaimed Brooklyn band Chairlift and fellow New Yorkers Au Revoir Simone.

The capacity for the event has doubled from 6,000 to 12,000 but organisers assure us the ambience will remain. The non musical acts account for about 30% of the overall entertainment. Piggy back assault courses, dancing nuns and giant water slides have in the past proved highlights and revellers are encouraged to come in fancy dress. But make sure you give your bedsheets a wash before deciding to come as a ghost for the fourth year in a row, eh?

Adult tickets cost £144 (inc booking fee) and are available here