8 Secret Garden Party Memories That Will Last Forever

Article by: Marcus Barnes|@mgoldenbarnes

Wed July 26, 2017 | 13:30 PM

Squelching your way through a sloppy, mud-laden tent graveyard while carrying a large suitcase containing an inflatable mattress and various other camping accessories on your head is probably not the kind of fantasy most people would conjure up when thinking about the best moments of a festival. But this poignant – and rather uncomfortable – episode in my recent adventure at Secret Garden Party will stay with me for a lifetime (and beyond, hopefully). Why? Because that soggy trudge to the exit gates will be the very last time my wellies are coated in the slurry that covered the entire SGP site after a weekend of persistent torrential outbursts. 

The bookends of most long-term experiences are usually the ones that stay with us longest. Despite the infrequent and very heavy bursts of rain, for many it was a vintage Secret Garden Party made up of lots of tiny little narratives that, when woven together, formed a magical tapestry full of sparkle, colour and silly individuals.

Tuckshop at The Last Resort

Secret Garden Party 2017 Last Resort Max Miechowski
Photo by: Max Miechowski

On Friday night a big crew of us squeezed our way into a packed Last Resort tent for an almighty back-to-back-to-back session. The Last Resort is a 24-hour tent, which stays open throughout SGP’s duration, all the way up until the very, very end. It hosted a mix of DJs and live performers, bands, solo artists and more. The Last Resort was almost always packed, sometimes due to the rain but mostly because the music and atmosphere were top notch.

One of the best moments at The Last Resort was when Hutch played b2b with Some Juan and Ando. The trio worked their way through a dizzying array of tunes, from UK funky jams through to classic house and further afield, during a raucous set that had the whole tent bouncing throughout. Definitely one of those sets that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Aerial Displays with Added Sparklers

Secret Garden Party 2017 Plane Andrew Whitton
Photo by: Andrew Whitton

I’ve already enthused about the magic of the Spitfires at Secret Garden Party . Their appearances at the festival are always spectacular, whether it’s a random fly-by or a daring display where the aerial acrobats in the pilot seat manage to draw things in the sky. As we were being served at one of the Caribbean food stalls the familiar sound of the warplane’s propellers could be heard overheard. What happened next was unforgettable…

The little plane began by using its smoke to make the peace sign and then performed several tricks before finishing up with a dazzling display involving huge sparklers on the end of each wing. This was the piece de resistance, stunning and awe-inspiring. It was followed by a similarly impressive display by a larger craft. It was one of those moments when your eyes and brain can’t quite comprehend what they’re seeing.

Bushwacka’s DJ Set at The Drop

Secret Garden Party 2017 The Drop Max Miechowski
Photo by: Max Miechowski

For many Bushwacka is a total legend, a DJ who rose up during the nineties to command dance floors across the UK and Europe and beyond with his partner Layo. The two men were residents at The End, one of the best clubs London has ever had. Their ability to rock the dance floor won them a huge army of fans and they remain firm favourites of countless ravers, new and old – though Layo has now hung up his DJ hat.

So the stage was set for Bushwacka’s appearance. Whether you were a fan or unaware who was playing, his high-energy selections created a rousing atmosphere at The Drop. Unrelenting throughout, his set was driving, techy, funky and full of energy. No need to warm up and ease the crowd in – Bushwacka just let loose and it worked a treat, just what was needed at that time of the night.

The Flaming Heart

Secret Garden Party 2017 Flaming Heart Danny North
Photo by: Danny North

The final fireworks show of Secret Garden Party was a two-parter, beginning with a display on Saturday night. Most of the gunpowder-fueled entertainment took place way up in the sky, as you might expect. But there was also a nice surprise for everyone who had a prime view of the lake. Right in the middle of the lake was the façade of a huge house, on an island which was accessible by boat, or by swimmers if you dared to explore that far into the lake’s waters.

Secret Garden Party 2017 Flaming Heart Jenna Foxton

Photo by: Jenna Foxton

The house was ignited as part of the Saturday spectacle and when the exterior burned away, all that remained inside was a heart. The wonderful symbol stayed alight for most of Saturday night and was the subject of thousands upon thousands of photographs, a couple of which we have placed here so you too can admire the beauty of the flaming heart.

Love Bus/Band Aid School

Secret Garden Party 2017 Love Bus Danny North
Photo by: Danny North

Secret Garden Party has a distinctly permissive ethos; it feels hippie-fied while also being silly and ridiculous. It's a playground for adults with a progressive attitude and nonstop fun and games across the site, from Space Hopper raves to mud wrestling and much much more. One of the best examples of its hippie-leaning atmosphere was the Love Bus, an inclusive homage to the psychedelic sixties featuring a colourful cast of love bunnies all dressed up (or undressed, as some were) in retro garb and ready to spread good vibes at SGP.

Secret Garden Party 2017 Love Bus Danny North 2

Photo by: Danny North

On Sunday several of the core members of the Love Bus crew paraded around the Garden with placards featuring silly messages to make people smile, bringing with them positive energy and nothing but love. It was a sight to behold as topless ladies and men covered with paint from the Holi celebration marched through the festival causing uproar at every turn , even making their way through campsites to whip up everybody into one final frenzy on the last day of the last ever SGP. Magic.

Holi Moly

Sgp Paint Fight Jenna Foxton
Photo by: Jenna Foxton

Every Sunday afternoon for the past few years SGP’s Great Stage has hosted the Holi paint celebration. The premise is simple: Everyone gets a pot of paint powder while gathered at The Great Stage waiting for the compere on stage to count them down to a kaleidoscopic Armageddon. On this particular Sunday, though, the weather decided to literally dampen the mood with the skies opening and a huge downpour drenching the entire festival site for the millionth time that weekend.

Secret Garden Party 2017 People Of Danny North 1

However, a little bit of extremely heavy rain was not going to put anyone off, and a huge crowd gathered at the Main Stage in complete defiance of Mother Nature. Amazingly, as the countdown began the rain stopped, the clouds dispersed and the sun popped its head out to douse everybody in its warm rays. It was one of those miraculous moments that only seem to happen at festivals. A shared experience that lifted everybody’s weather-weary spirits at just the right time, it allowed the paint to fly freely and leave a colourful cast of Gardeners in its wake!

Sunflower Field Part Two

Secret Garden Party 2017 Sunflowers Marcus Barnes
Photo by: Marcus Barnes

In 2014 SGP’s organizers hid a sunflower field right in the middle of the festival and it was to become a very special place for my partner in crime and me. It was the beginning of a magical adventure for the two of us, which continues to this day. On a mission at SGP as friends, 100% platonic, we encountered the sunflower field and stayed there for hours, laughing and admiring the wonder of nature. Sunflowers are now one of the symbols of our relationship and they bring us joy whenever we see them, no matter what form.

So one of our final stop-offs before we bid farewell to Secret Garden Party was, of course, the sunflower field. This time, instead of the entrance being through a portaloo, you had to queue up and wait in line in order to do an "audition" to get in. My partner in crime and I did a rendition of "Tease Me" by Chaka Demus & Pliers – the judge’s favourite of the day. In the field we were full of love transported back to that first time, that innocent early phase when we were still friends and only just getting to know each other. Beautiful.

Freddie Fellowes's Into The Woods DJ Set

Secret Garden Party 2017 Band Zerya Shakely
Photo by: Zerya Shakely

On the last day of SGP, tiredness had kicked and a weary decision was made to exit the festival before the final bell was tolled. Before we made our escape a trip to the magnificent sunflower field was going to be our way of seeing it out. But fate threw a friend-shaped spanner into the works and before we knew it we’d been convinced to hang out at Duff’s Bar where more friends encouraged us to join them for Freddie’s set.

In the woodland location Freddie got to work as a buoyant, sentimental crowd were enraptured by his deep, melodic selections. One friend said Freddie’s legendary sets were always the catalyst for a sea of tears and it was easy to see how that could happen. Surrounded by a big crew of close friends who were all gifted with silly toy instruments, we formed the "Secret" Secret Garden Party band and had an absolute blast while Freddie bowed out with a fantastic set.