Secret Garden Party?

I came back from the Secret Garden Party yesterday, stunned and disbelieving of what I had witnessed. I’ve been to festivals before but never have I seen anything like it. SGP is really something else. What it is, is utter crap.You have to give it to the bands, some of them were really good. I really enjoyed the Shout Out Louds and Envy and Other Sins. There were countless talented artists and musicians there, but even the enjoyment of seeing them couldn’t wipe out the horrible memories and lasting irritation that are the remnants of my 2 nights at SGP. We arrived at about 8 on Thursday night. Everything seemed to be going well, although some of the conversations that carried across the fields to my ears made my heart sink a little: hearing Cambridge undergraduates making overly-loud references to string-theory in an attempt to be noticed makes me cringe enough when I’m at work, let alone when I’m meant to be chilling out. Invasive conversations got worse over the weekend though, topped off I think with hearing at 8 am a group of adults discussing, next to their 9 year old and over a whiskey and coke, being stoned and then pulled over by the cops in an uninsured vehicle with 2 bags of weed in the back. The tone stayed about the same when a friend came over and told them that he had woken up with glitter on his balls, but didn’t know how it got there, probably it was from f?*king a disco queen… in front of a 9 year old… Nice. I could write a book of overheard shockers but, I’m sad to say, that wasn’t the half of it, and besides you get that anywhere, whether at a festival or not. Ok, I know it’s not just me who thinks those fairy wings are bloody ridiculous. If I never see another person wearing them with one of those cheap pink tutus it will be too soon. Some of the people dressed up looked pretty cool as it goes. There were some stunning dresses, on men just as much as on women. The thing is, that a lot of it was spoiled by the fact the people wearing the outfits were such pretentious, I’m-speaking-loudly-coz-I’m-so-crazy-see-how-interesting-I-am? try-hards who spend the vast majority of their life watching Coronation Street over a frozen dinner.But all this is peripheral to my main complaint, a complaint not limited to SGP but to a lesser extent to Strawberry Fair and to countless other events that I have been fortunate enough not to attend. My complaint is the HYPOCRISY of it all.Here it is, a festival that preaches being natural, and spirituality. A festival that talks about love and freedom. They even apologise for advertising, though they say it’s because it’s the only way they can make money, ditto the elevated drinks prices and why you can’t bring your own alcohol in (although from what I saw everyone did). There are talks on philosophy, people teaching you how to do woodwork and beat drums. Yeah man, this is the place for me, I believe in treating nature right, I believe in freedom, I believe in community. Ah no, it turns out I was misled. When they say they believe in all these things they don’t seem to want to stretch to providing enough recycling bins, anywhere for organic waste, ‘green toilets’ or reducing the carbon footprint of the festival by reducing the unnecessary electricity usage. My fellow festival-goers seemed not to be of a like mind with me either, strewing the grounds with litter and apparently unable to grasp the idea that you should turn off a tap after you’ve finished with it. And look at the stalls. As with most festivals they are full of handmade-in-sweatshops overpriced clothes, the product of very unfair trade, and yet people flock to buy tie-dye trousers in an attempt to look like they are at one with the cultures that were exploited to make them.For all their professed ‘alternativeness’ and spirituality all I could see going on was people living selfishly hedonistically, and being ripped off by any chancer who had the wherewithall to spot an intoxicated mug at 50 paces.A man came up to me at one point and told me that he was trying to raise money… what for? So that he could go to South America and train with a Shaman, so that then he could go and set up a retreat in South America, probably in Guatamala. Could I spare anything, like a fiver or so, to help him in his quest? No, I couldn’t. No, not even for a small bag of worry dolls. Do I look like that much of a mug? Seriously, come on then man. Who is the Shaman? Can you prove to me, within sensible empirical limits, that he has had any success relieving people of any form of discomfort? Whereabouts in Guatamala will you be setting up your retreat? With what capital will you be doing it? How do you intend to stay afloat once you’re up and running? It’ll take a lot more to convince me that I should part with my hard-earned money, and yes guys it is very hard earned as it goes, than a nice pair of brown eyes, a pirate outfit and a load of crap that translates simply into “can I have some cash so I can go off on a jolly to South America?”. No mate, you can’t. My money is better spent on my direct debits to the EIA and the NSPCC than on you, because they’ll actually change the world with it.Direct debits though… it seems that SGP organisers advise against them – it’s a way for ‘the man’ to have control over you, it curtails your freedom. As does voting. That’s right kids. Don’t vote, it’s a way of absolving yourself of responsibility for your own life. Damn, if only we’d realised this in 1215 we could have saved all the trouble of the Magna Carta, we never would have had to fight for our rights to have a Parliament and those silly Suffragettes need never have protested for their right to vote! Oh no, hang on a minute… It makes me absolutely livid that people would take for granted the right for which we have fought so long and hard. These people don’t know what freedom is. Freedom to do what exactly? To opt out, is the answer. By opting out, you are not gaining your freedom, you are not taking responsibility for your own right, all you are doing is giving up on trying to make a difference, not only for yourself but for people who have fewer rights, fewer privileges and less freedom than yourselves. We, as human beings, share a world, and on a smaller scale we share a country, we share a community and we share a family (be it relations or friends). We are never alone. We in the UK are lucky, we have the privilege to live in a democratic society (at the moment at least). It is a terrible insult to the people suffering under dictators and oppressors, like those in Sudan, Burma, Zimbabwe, to suggest that we should not exercise our right to vote. There is no opting out of our society, unless you want to opt out of being a human being.So that this doesn’t turn into a rant too long to read, not because I have run out of topics, I am going to finish off with something that is a full-on, real-time example of the Secret Garden Party’s hypocrisy. So annoyed was I with the pretentious and self-absorbed nature of the festival that I decided to skip out to the car to find my iPod (which I’ve lost by the way, gutted, the festival so wasn’t worth that). I got to the car and was having a nice chill on the bonnet away from the festival noise, thinking this is good I will calm down then head back in in a better mood. So a guy drives up (on his own, no carpooling for the SGP it would seem) stereo blaring really bad, tinny music. After 10 minutes, having lost hope that he might turn the stereo off and give me some peace and once more annoyed I packed off up the hill towards the other end of the field in need of some much-needed escape. I found a track leading off next to a conservation area. I’d seen some people heading into the wood but I thought it looked like I shouldn’t go in there, so I walked along the path, the signed PUBLIC FOOTPATH. I had a lovely little saunter along for a bit and having regained my calm I decided to head back to the festival and my housemate who would be wondering where I got to. Having told him about this beautiful oasis of countryside, we decided to go back up there for a nice walk, because let’s face it an empty field was a much more appealing prospect than listening to any of the talks that were going on and having to overhear posh airheads talking about how amazing it was that they crashed out on acid last night man yeah. So we went out (scanned out again by the marvellous monitoring system – I am my barcode) and walked across the car park field to the footpath. We’d got 100m down it when a massive, shiny 4by4 races up alongside us, pulls up and two beefy men tell us to stop. It turns out that ‘the landowner doesn’t want people from the festival walking across the land’. But, says I, it’s a PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY. PUBLIC, you know, that means I have a RIGHT to walk along it. Oh, we can walk wherever we like if we take off our festival wristbands, thereby stranding ourselves outside the festival, unable to re-enter even to get our stuff. Great. After trying to reason with them that we were in fact not marauding junkies and just wanted a walk, we acquiesced, scared that we might be forcibly relieved of our wristbands and thereby our trapped belongings. Turning, I told my housemate that that was it, I’d had enough and we were going to leave, but not before we made a formal complaint to the organisers. Accordingly we packed up, loaded the car and trooped backstage to the production cabin to complain. We were greeted by the most stuck-up, unfriendly and officious woman I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet outside of marketing. In fact, she could in fact have been the marketing manager. When we, politely I might add, told her of our grievance, the first thing she asked us was why did we want to go down there anyway? Did we have some “pressing need” to walk down the path? — Why? I’ll tell you why lady, coz I want to. That’s why, and that’s enough of a reason for me to make use of a PUBLIC footpath. So, after much to-ing and fro-ing, we finally got a name and address out of a much more helpful guy, and then we spoke to the site manager. It turns out that although it is possible for the festival to apply to the council to have footpaths closed for a one-off event, due to an oversight on their part (make your own mind up as to whether this was deliberate shaving of the costs in order to maximise profits or just total incompetence by the organisers) they had not done so. Ergo, our friendly neighbourhood security guards had in fact intimidated us, and infringed on our rights to utilise a public footpath, illegally and without grounds. For a festival whose main message is freedom, which hosts expose talks on the media and conspiracy theories, this entire episode proves just one thing. The facade of the Secret Garden Party hides nothing more than the devious, money-grasping, faceless beurocracy that they profess so strongly to oppose. Secret Garden Party? More like Selfish Grasping PRISON. Long story short – if you have half a brain and a cup-full of ethics, don’t go.PS The footpath we tried to walk along is detailed as follows:Name:
31/12 Status:
Footpath Parish:
Broughton Pathno:
12 District:
Huntingdonshire District Length:


2 thoughts on “Secret Garden Party?

  1. Fantastic! the truth at last….my partner wants to go to this festival so i had a look at the reviews, all good of course and then i had a look at some of the SGP highlights on youtube…… the music line up looks great, but i was put off by the pretentiousness of it all…and the naked pool of wonder which reminded me of some dodgy Ibiza party…plus naked trampolining! what! i thought it was supposed to be family friendly? my main aim when i go to a festival is to enjoy good music eat good food and have fun with my friends…..not be surrounded by vain twats who talk shit. Its a reflection of the fucked up TV reality world we live in…..self absorbed vanity in disguise…..i will give this pretensions load of shit a big miss….thanks for your intelligent and honest comments. Are their any good unpretentious festivals these days….is it all about money and fakery?

    • hey Marie,

      Ah it’s a tricky one. I was pretty furious at SGP when I wrote this a few years ago, but maybe it’s got better… I haven’t been again but I hear it is good these days. But I fear if you want to avoid the tutu-wearing neon-painted hipsters you’re going to have to head somewhere else. Latitude is quite good, but also quite tame. Glasto is amazing but gone. I hear Green Man is pretty good and Bestival too, but I haven’t been to them so it’s hard to comment. I’m thinking of heading over to Norway for Oya festival this year – I’ve had better times at festivals overseas than the UK ones in the past!

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