Arts & Culture: Secret Garden Party 2011

“If you can remember it, then you probably weren’t there.” At least that’s what they say. I’ve stopped trying to remember which ridiculous encounter happened on which night; it almost seems irrelevant given that Secret Garden Party exists in its own special time zone, and that I was almost entirely convinced that I was able to travel between dimensions.

Secret Garden Party is an entity in itself. A site of wonder that is almost cognizant, and a place where one becomes completely consumed in four days which feels like a lifetime. SGP is like no other festival. You can lose all your friends and immediately make new ones. Which is exactly what I did.

SGP is known for being far out, both in its themes and practises and in its proximity to the mainstream UK festivals. At my first SGP two years ago, I was completely enamoured by the freaks and weirdos. This year there was a much greater number of mainstream festival goers and kids who had clearly just finished their AS Levels and been given a wad of cash by mummy and daddy.

On the Thursday, I was worried SGP might have lost its charm. But it hasn’t. The ‘normals’ were well into the swing of things by half way through and soon enough, throwing themselves into the mud wrestling ring in the Collysillium and then embarking on an adventure to find the secret club inside the photo booth seemed the only normal thing to do. To sum up just how much the SGP folk care about keeping the magic alive, they took into account people’s criticism of last year’s increased crowds and capped the capacity at 26,000.

The last night gave way to my most treasured experiences. Sunday night closes early at SGP, around midnight, which meant that seeking out alternative adventure was the only option for those not ready to return to earth. I set off with my wonderful tent neighbours, who had provided consummate entertainment all weekend. I have two festival rules, the second of which I am thinking of revising.

The first is “don’t bring outside news in”, which was broken several times with the news of Winehouse’s death. The second is “festival friends stay with the festival”. So in the same way you probably won’t discuss your real-life with the people you meet, I never exchange details for fear of tainting the short-lived relationship I have created. Stupid, I know. Our neighbours live in my little corner of South London, so perhaps our paths will cross again.

So, on the final evening, in an Amsterdam brothel-style wooden hut, we tied one of my new festival friends to a chair while a male stripper in drag spunked all over us. Well, mayonnaise shot from a giant phallus. That sums it up the best I possibly can.

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