Interview: Secret Garden Party

With festival season just around the corner, it’s high time you forgot about revision and decided on which of the many parties across the UK is to be graced with your presence this summer. With the huge variety of choices, many with hefty price tags, it’s not always easy to gauge which event stands out from the pack as the one to sink the remainder of your student loan into. While for many the line-up is still the main attraction, there are also the important questions of the venue, set designs, the type of crowd and activities beyond the music that can elevate the experience above that of the ordinary.

Should you find yourself in Cambridgeshire between the 21st and the 24th of July, in the right garden, beside the right lake then you will be at Secret Garden Party, which happens to be just such a festival. Alongside the weighty line-up already booked to play this year, Secret Garden Party has become renowned for its surprise performances, creative and extravagant arrangements and good-natured party atmosphere.

Impact caught up with the big boss Fred Fellowes to ask him a few questions about why you should consider Secret Garden Party as your party destination this summer.

With all the other festivals to choose from in the UK, what sets Secret Garden party apart from the rest?

Because it’s not a festival, it’s a party!

What does Secret Garden Party offer besides music?

Everything we can possibly think of each year. As we aren’t about offering up a spectator event, it’s about having a huge variety of things to get involved with.

“It’s not a festival, it’s a party!”

How has Secret Garden Party ‘grown’ (sorry) over the years? How many people do you expect to show up this year?

Not the worst gardening pun I’ve heard! We stopped growing on our tenth birthday and have capped ticket holders to 22,000.

Where did the “secret garden” idea come from?

It was originally just called “The Garden Party”. After its first year my partner and I fell out – he left saying he would keep the business and I could keep the event but I couldn’t call it “The Garden Party”. Amazing what a creative force spite can be.

So how did you end up running a festival in the first place?

By pure accident and not knowing any better (blame the parents I would).

Briefly, what goes into organising something like this?

Briefly, a lot.

When it comes to booking the line-up is there a particular area of music you target or do you try to cater for everyone?

I am paraphrasing several great men here, but there are only two types of music: good and bad. We like and book the former of the two.

So the theme this year is “Gardeners’ Guide to the Galaxy”, should we be expecting to see some outlandish costumes? Do you have a favourite theme from the past?

I think “Babylon or Eden” was one of my favourites as it kind of sums up the contradictive ways we all spend our free time.

“There are only two types of music: good and bad”

With running a big festival must come a lot of responsibility, especially considering how hard people tend to party when they’re in a field. Is there a lot of pressure put on you as the host regarding the authorities’ outlook on venues and how they deal with alcohol and drugs safety etc?

Whilst it is a huge responsibility to look after that number of people, I can happily say our local authorities have a very much better dialogue and relationship with us than Fabric seem to report. I really couldn’t be happier with how they help us in managing the party.

What are your most memorable moments over the years?

There have been loads, as I’m sure you can imagine, I am more for looking forward… This year my son will be old enough to come on site and see some of the show and set up; that is really exciting.

If you had to sum it up in a sentence, what would it be?
It’s a serious party!

Thanks to Fred Fellowes for his time.

Fred was talking to Tom Ingram.

Image: Nick Caro – Secret Garden Party 2015, courtesy of Fanatic.

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