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The highlight of my summer: Secret Garden Party

Secret Garden Party The Cultural Exposé

It was only a few months ago that revellers across the country were having a ball at the wild and wonderful Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire – including writer Ena Miller. With tickets now on sale for next year’s summer jamboree, she takes a moment to reminisce on her 2012 experience…

When I look at my photos from The Secret Garden Party I can’t help but smile. When I was there I spent a lot of time smiling back at those smiling at me; it’s a festival filled with friendly people.  It’s a place where everyone is up for meeting everyone else and to cram in as much fun as one can have in 4 nights and 5 days.

The weeks of torrential rain before SGP worried me. But at the gates, it started well. A handsome man carried our bags in the dark and through the mud.  Our camping neighbours to the right offered their gazebo and a merry drink.  They knew before we did that there was no way we (with no instructions) could put up our tent in the drizzle without creating a terrible drama.

Our neighbours to our left became our dancing partners; they offered us friendship and laughter and  told us about places we hadn’t had time to read about.

Secret Garden Party The Cultural Exposé

We stood on the hill as the Alabama Shakes played in the distance.  Too far away to appreciate the music, we were still entertained by the people walking by. The colourful costume of the American Indian, the cool tiger face that grinned perfectly up close against my camera lens and the kids with no tears being pulled along by their parents in special homemade vehicles.


The Dance Off area was packed.  A massive boxing ring was the space people had earlier taken turns to show who was “the daddy” of the dancing floor.  Surrounded by piles of haystacks – the brave climbed to the top.  Everywhere – below and above – bodies moved enthusiastically to show their appreciation of the music. 

Those wanting something a little more hard-core waited for the boat to take them to the rave in the middle of the lake.

Secret Garden Party The Cultural Exposé

We discovered the Coliseum. During the day people mud wrestled naked.  The prize was simply the triumph of winning.  

On the way to the party in the woods we stopped by At Where the Wild Things Are bar for a cocktail. 

By the time we reached The Artful Badger it was always way too busy to like.  But I loved the novelty entrance to the Alice in Wonderland disco.  As the doors got smaller and smaller, they never got too small for me to fit through.  They took us to a place that kept us going when the thought of sleep in a muddy tent began to feel more welcoming.

I spent most of my weekend in fancy dress.  Sequence, wigs, silk, taffeta, netting, homemade wedding dresses, cute white leather corsets, love hearts, butterflies and bubble blowing filled my days. 

Where there was a party, there was also a place to rest.  I spent a little time in my bikini at Lost Horizons.   We chilled out on the grass.  Glided through the air in the tree swing. Had a shower (even though it’s cold, it feels great to wash) and emptied our alcohol-filled pores in a Swedish sauna where the temperature inside was insane.  

That’s where I met naked Stephen – the playwright.   Through the heated mist we talked documentaries, Russian models and always doing the job you love. We later exchanged phone numbers and arranged to meet again. I like to think we’ll be friends.

Secret Garden Party The Cultural Exposé


And when all that was done I went off to find the clay tent.  My friend created a five-legged turtle and I moulded Mr Caterpillar that sadly never made it back to home with me. 

The secret festival is set in the fields of Huntingdon, seventy miles outside London. Wild peaceful countryside mingles perfectly with respectful mud crunching happy fun seekers.

Even though thousands go ever year, I do feel it’s a special experience not many know about.  It was my first ever festival and if I didn’t have so many other things I’d like to do before I die, I’d definitely be a secret gardener again next year.

So instead, I feel it is my duty to tell you. 

Everything I was worried about.  I shouldn’t have. 

 Would I have fun? Yes.  
Did I need to know millions about music?  No  
. Would the toilets be so gross I’d be sick? No way. They were completely fine.
  Would I spend millions of money when I was there? No.  I didn’t have to. Would there be decent food? Yes, it was yummy and reasonable.
 Would I be wet and miserable? I was damp and for brief moments miserable.

But then there was always a Secret Gardener around to make me smile. 

(Words: Ena Miller) 

Secret Garden Party The Cultural Exposé

Do you have a lovely holiday experience you’d like to recommend and share with The Cultural Exposé? Email – we’d love to hear about it!