I still believe in magic.
I have seen robots, Alice in Wonderland playing cards, fairies, pirates, strumpets, bears, droogs and druids; '50s pin ups, superheroes, heroines, vikings, sailors, mermaids, cowboys, indians, penguins; hippies, dracula, flower fairies, dragons, tigers, bumble bees, the geeks, the chic and the downright odd.
July saw the sellout Secret Garden Party celebrate its 6th year of magical utopian mayhem. Abbots Ripton Hall and it's annual inhabitants put the cool into Cambridgeshire every Summer as increasing crowds flock to indulge in a bit of imagination fuelled escapism, and I just can't think of a better place to do it.
The Secret Garden Party encourages illusions, myths and fantasy to come to life, and the theme Fact or Fiction was lovingly translated across all elements of the experience with visionary elegance.
Headliners Gorillaz Sound System, Marina and the Diamonds and Mercury Rev wowed the crowds but for me it's the little things that add the sparkle. Every corner has an art installation. Everyone smiles, and not once have I felt intimidated or threatened.There is an atmosphere of play, as if the shackles of adult life are allowed to come off for 4 days and this is what happens when you tease out that inner child again. The best bits happen when you sit and soak it all in.
The festival has definitely reached tipping point; from inception in 2004 when guests only knew the location of the party shortly before th event, this is certainly no secret anymore. The team of Head Gardeners at Secret Productions have firmly put humble Huntingdon on the map by making the Secret Garden Party a vital event in the summer festival calendar. The crowds have swelled to 5 times the size the festival used to be, and aside from needing extra screens by the main stage I can't see that the spirit of the party has been quashed in any way from the popularity.
So, highlights for me?
Seeing the Hoodlums in the Living Room Tent; Savoire Amour on the Wild Things stage; sitting in a hammock with a beer, dancing in front of a DJ booth tank with my one year old twins, having my feet washed clean by tiny fish, eating nachos on a hay bale and checking out some dub - just a run of the mill day, you know. A visit to the Garden Party revives the soul.
Roll on Summer 2011, a whole year in the real world seems just too long to bear.
All photos © Miles O'Carroll