Secret Garden Party – A Retrospective


After 13 consecutive years, the Cambridgeshire-based Secret Garden Party will be going out with a bang, hosting its final ever festival over the last weekend of July this year.

Since the initial launch in 2004 by founder Fred Fellowes, SGP has come to be known as one of the most popular arts and alternative music festivals in the UK – which can be seen through its enormous growth of 1,000 tickets being sold in its first year to 29,000 in 2013, with over 15 stages now existing across the 100-acre site.

The festival has also seen some of the biggest names in pop play whilst in the earlier stages of their careers, along with various other displays of entertainment forms such as theatre and dance. Despite its significant surge in popularity over the years, their website declares that their “ethos remains the same” – arguably the formula that has aided its success.

SGP also chooses a theme each year, which has encouraged revellers to think outside the box when it comes to clothing and/or costumes, and to truly immerse themselves within the festival experience.  The final line on the festival’s ethos webpage notes how “this is a Serious Party”, and surely one that will be missed by many throughout the summers to come.  So, to bid farewell to the biggest and best garden party that ever was, we have compiled some highlights from previous weekends at SGP…


The first properly commercialised Secret Garden Party saw Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall play what was presumably the headline slot, prior to the release of her debut album Eye to the Telescope, so we can assume that this was one of her earliest gigs as a solo artist.  That year also saw British band The Egg play a set, along with Australian band The Basics, and British singer-songwriter Carina Round.  A small and low-key line-up which foreshadowed the magnitude of the festival that was to come in later years.

Image via NME/Andy Willsher


Four years on from the opening festival, 2008 saw a monumental shift in the scale of SGP and the names that featured on the line-up. The theme for the year was ‘Revolution’, and the headline act came in the form of Jamaican music legend Grace Jones. The likes of Alphabeat, Noah and the Whale, and 2015 Glastonbury headliner Florence & The Machine also played, along with Secret Garden Party headliners for this year, Metronomy. The organisers seem to possess a knack for predicting big talent.

Image via Secret Garden Party/Jenna Foxton


In my opinion, 2012 was probably the best SGP line-up they’ve ever had, and I’m slightly bitter that I wasn’t there.  The theme was ‘Standing on Ceremony’ which encouraged festival goers to join in with anniversaries, ceremonies, and initiations.  As it was the year that London hosted the Olympics, this was also incorporated into the theme.  In terms of artists that played, this year saw the return of the 2004 headliner KT Tunstall, and the likes of Little Dragon, Alabama Shakes, Daughter, Clean Bandit, Lianne La Havas and Bastille peformed across the weekend.  Undoubtedly a strong year for the festival.

Image via Secret Garden Party/Gobinder Jhitta


Finally, Secret Garden Party 2015 featured the theme ‘Childish Things’ and was described by founder Fred Fellowes when he spoke to Digital Spy as “a 100 acre toy-box of a party, complete with jelly, ice cream and sprinkles, so you can release and realise your inner child”.  Playing across the 15 stages were acts such Angus and Julia Stone, Darwin Deez, HONNE, Jungle, and Kate Tempest.  As always, tickets sold out, and there’s no doubt that festival goers had a great time at the lakeside location – not only enjoying the music, but also the boat rides, swimming and treasure hunts that SGP has to offer.

Sadly, tickets are already sold out for the last ever Secret Garden Party taking place from 20th-24th July this summer.  However, you are able to register for a limited number of resale tickets on their website, which is definitely worth doing; it’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable weekend.  Take a look at the full line-up for the final festival below.

Image result for sgp 2017 lineup

Image via Secret Garden Party


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Third year English student that writes about music and drinks too much coffee

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