September 17, 2014

The wonders of The Secret Garden Party 2014

During the last weekend of July a big group of us descended onto the quiet town of Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire to join 30,000 other 'gardeners' for four nights of fantastical partying. The Secret Garden Party is a relatively new 'boutique' festival that has warranted a reputation for taking it's revellers to a topsy-turvy, wondrous land where vibrant creativity and limitless expression are found in every corner. I absolutely loved last years SGP, so along with about 20 other friends from Somerset, London & university, I decided to relive the celebrations this year.
I was first greeted by a security guard who questioned my pack of Yasmin and sniffed my wine filled plastic bottle to check it didn't have an alcohol proof of fun% - SGP's alcohol allowance is not half as cool as the festival. But the queuing and interrogation was soon forgotten as I entered what can only be described as Disney World for adults. The weather was glorious and the atmosphere was contagiously joyful. 

The festival itself is made up of 14 imaginative stages, luscious greenery, vintage clothing stalls and art installations encompassing a serene lake. My favourite stages are The Temple of Boom, The Dance Off and The Drop which are all ideally situated next to each other. I also loved the Artful Badger, which is located in a forest and features tree houses to explore and dance in. The Colo-silly-um by day is a hysterical stage for activities such as naked jelly wrestling and hot dog eating competitions and by night it becomes a sparkling dance arena that was graced by Nero, Sigma and Chase & Status.
Feeling peckish
Anyone with a functioning jaw had the choice of a variety of foods, although the longest queue was nearly always outside the chunky chip shack (say that 5 times, fast, drunk). There was literally everything; cupcakes, milkshakes, patisserie desserts, seriously good street food, artisan pizzas, burgers, fish finger sandwiches, nachos, tapas, it was endless. The best however, was the Chilly Banana, which provided the most delicious, feel-good snack in the form of frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and covered in a choice of toppings such as coconut or nuts. The staff are a friendly bunch too so take a look at their Facebook page and look out for them in the future!

Don't you dare miss..!
On the last day everyone heads to the main stage for the paint fight, where bags of coloured powder paint are handed out, and upon the first note of House Of Pain's Jump Around vibrant colours shoot across the crowd. It's an amazing atmosphere but if you want to walk out like a rainbow be sure to get there early and head to the front of the stage. There is also the annual dance off where anyone can compete over the course of the four days, before a climatic final on Sunday. If you remember it's on, it's definitely worth a watch!

The lavatory class system
I certainly wouldn't call myself a diva, I don't mind a whole lot of mud and I'll dance all night in the rain, but, I draw the line at using festival toilets. My first experience of using a portaloo is still a favourite topic amongst my friends; I came out in tears. Thankfully Secret Garden Party has 'Pootopia' or more commonly referred to as 'the posh loos'. A wristband into this spiffing establishment costs £24, but in my opinion it is totally worth it. They are clean (for the entire duration of the festival), eco-friendly, there is always toilet roll, theres hardly ever a queue, theres a light, doors that lock and at the very worst, it smells like a dirty hamster cage. There's plenty of books too if you fancy a spot of reading, and it even has it's own radio station, sanitation station with enough room to have a jolly good dance! Plus, according to everyone else, it's a great place to meet other posho's! Huzzah!
We never found the wizard
This years theme was 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' so the head gardeners turned the lake stage into Emerald City; towers of vibrant green that housed a DJ was only accessible by boat, or the odd enthusiastic, rule-breaking swimmer. You could either bring your own boat or queue a short while to be sailed over. From Emerald City, you could see the Pagoda stage (full to the brim) and merriments on the bank by the main stage, as well as a family of ducks gliding by with absolutely no interest in all the madness around them. I can imagine for the rest of the year Doris likes watching the ducks too as she walks her dogs around the tranquil, peaceful countryside lake, just as oblivious to the July joviality as her feathered friends. 
Glitter is the only thing you should care about wearing
 This is where I shun my fashion beliefs and tell you festivals are not a place to be worrying about whether you even look good, let alone worrying about following the right trends. And for the record, the aztec warrior that works in a florist look has been done to death. It drowned, in the lake, about 3 years ago. Please, allow yourself four days of the year to wear the silliest, craziest, COMFIEST, most magical creations you can conjure up. Festivals are breaks from society, so wear whatever you want to wear. Be comfy, be creative, be a little bit special.

Last year I wore a 12 year olds fairy dress, with a shredded hemline that rose throughout the night as I became less and less tolerant with having to hitch it up every time I wanted to climb a hill. To your average Joe on the street I probably looked like a gipsy bridesmaid, but at SGP my outfit was pitifully bland. To my distain, this year I was costumeless, having been so busy finishing university before the festival started. Instead I threw on light, summer dresses, endless pots of glitter and embellished my face with crystals and pearls. It was refreshing to wake up, look into a pocket sized mirror, lather my face in sparkles and with all the confidence in the world, feel like I was fully ready for the day. 

One thing I will point out to any festival novices, is that the temperatures are extreme. Pack for scorchingly hot sunny days, and the trembling cold at night. This year, I completely forgot how low the temperatures can get when it's 4am and you're stood in the middle of a field - it is not a time for strapless dresses!
Secrets to be discovered 
 One of the most enchanting elements of Secret Garden Party is that it really does live up to its name, there are endless 'secrets' throughout the garden and you only know about them through the beauty of rumours and word of mouth, or if you're really lucky and end up stumbling right into one. This year an unmarked, completely bog-standard portaloo (see what I did there) acted as a portal to a vibrant field of sunflowers. Clamber inside and within a few seconds you are surrounded by thousands of 5ft tall, radiant, yellow blooms. It's surreal, beautiful and one of the most joyful sights I have ever witnessed. Further through the field lies a ball pit and an old piano for good measure; always expect the unexpected. It's a truly special feeling when you come across a hidden treasure, but it also means some remain a secret. It was only after the festival I heard about an iceskating rink (complete with christmas tree) nestled away, which would have been a crazy experience in July's blistering heat wave. But that's the beauty of it, we all leave with completely unique memories and experiences. Besides, if everyone found them all, they wouldn't be secrets would they?
 We all dedicated a considerable amount of our time to the euphoric motion of the swinging carousel, a funfair ride that soured over the sunflower fields whilst blasting music that made you feel, literally, on top of the world. During the day it gave us a fantastic view of the wondrous festival waiting to be explored further, and at night the ground was a spectacle of dancing lights. It's also rather special when you've had a bit to drink and you're peaking at the height of merriment!
Sunset until dawn
By night the festival is even more alive then it is in the day and on Saturday the spectacle takes to the skies with a jawdroppingly magnificent fireworks display from the lake. This year we were treated to one of the most magical sights I've ever seen, thousands of flashing LED lights fell from the sky onto the crowd. Against the black sky, it looked dazzling.

On the Sunday 'The Big Burn' takes place, where Emerald City is set alight and left to burn in the centre of the lake as everyone celebrates an unforgettable four days. Just before, spitfires soured through the sky shooting fireworks from their wings and forming hearts and ahem, some obscene drawings in the sky. It was absolutely brilliant.
I’ll now hand it over to the pro’s who captured the festival without a cider in hand. Credit’s are underneath each photo, but check out the official gallery here to see all of the amazing photos from the weekend!
Photo: Jenna Foxton
Photo: Andrew Whitton
Photo: Rachael White
Photo: Andrew Whitton
The mind-blowing LED air drop captured by Jody Thompson

It was honestly one of the best weekends of my life and as the head gardeners put it, Secret Garden Party 'is a serious party!' Thank you to my awesome friends, my boyfriend and all the crazy people I met along the way - you all made it unforgettable. 
I cannot wait to do this all over again.
See you next year gardeners! 

August 06, 2014

My 23rd birthday fit for a princess!

Update: I am extremely chuffed to announce my macbook is back with me in full working order! After two gruelling months without it, after it decided to break a week before my final hand in, I now have access to all of my photos and posts that I have been desperate to blog about! Time has gone by but I still feel they need to be shared (:

I also have some very sad news that I am not quite ready to share with you all yet, but I have decided to share these photos and moments that took place months ago in the way they were experienced, even if a lot has changed since. Thank you to everyone for all the continued support I’ve received on my blog – even if it has been neglected recently. I hope you all look forward to the many posts and exciting collaborations that will be revealed over the coming weeks.
Back in April, I celebrated my 23rd birthday! A week before this I helped my mum move into her beautiful new house back in Somerset so this year I celebrated my birthday somewhere even more special! I came down stairs to find an abundance of peach hues, brown paper packaging and spiralling cream ribbon in the form of beautifully wrapped presents infront of our new fireplace. My mum always wraps presents so beautifully, and these were no exception; elegant, pretty and feminine! The vintage brown paper looked absolutely darling next to the peach butterfly printed wrapping, A little white box from my sister Zoe adorned an adorable, vintage tag with ‘Time to drink Champagne and dance on the table’ written across it. My sister told me it’s what she expected me to do later on that night – she was right of course!
My darling Coco
I had enjoyed a lie in that morning so present’s had to wait as we headed to Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet. The designer village is home to brands such as Toast, Amanda Wakeley, Joseph, LK Bennett, Paul Smith, Orla Kiely, Agnes B and the original Mulberry factory shop which is a treasure trove of loveliness! My mother and Grandma adored the home décor available too, meandering through the rows of vintage pieces, French and Swedish furniture and chic trinkets.
Kilver Court has a renowned restaurant nestled amongst the shops, which is where we headed for lunch. The Sharpham Pantry Resturant makes use of locally sourced, organic produce and its passion for spelt flour (local and healthy) is evident throughout its mouth-watering menu. My mum enjoyed a homemade spelt crush flan served with dressed mixed leaves, potato salad and an olive & sun fried tomato spelt salad, which she said was divine! My Grandma selected something a little lighter and enjoyed the farmhouse pate served with onion marmalade & spelt toast. I knew what I was having as soon as I saw my favourite combination of flavours written on the menu: caramelised red onion marmalade topped with goat’s cheese, rocket & balsamic glaze! I very nearly missed out when the waitress said they had run out of the marmalade, but after I explained that it was my birthday and that onion and goats cheese is my idea of heaven, the wonderful staff scrambled around and found me a new jar! A big thank you to them, and to my mum also who was even willing to run to the farm shop and buy some for the chefs to use on my flat bread! Accompanied by some local cider, it was incredible! I then finished it off with a generous slice of chilli chocolate tart with lime syllabub – de-lish!
That evening I celebrated my birthday at my local pub with about 20 close friends who came sporting sparkling headwear for my theme of ‘Crowns and Tiaras’. I love anything that sparkles and I think you’re never too old to don a tiara and be a princess for an evening. The entire bar staff dressed up too – there was even a unicorn head pouring drinks! One friend came up with the idea that everyone who buys me a drink gets to stick a gem stone to my face, I ended up covered in jewels by the end of the night! It was very merry indeed and everyone had a wonderful time. I originally bought a vintage, elegant, pearl tiara but my friends persuaded me to make my own wacky, princess crown using a children’s tiara craft set instead! Have a look at my crowns below and let me know which one you prefer? I loved wearing them both throughout the night. The pearl tiara because it's so chic, and the DIY crown because it's so silly and fun!
Here are a few favourite shots of the night…after many, many drinks.
Sarah and I
Charlie, Lisa and me
 My favourite crown of the night!
Hunter, Xavier and me
Asha and I towards the end of the night, and the king below!
I spent the remainder of the weekend with friends before finally returning home (a little worse for wear) where I opened my lovely presents. Along with money I received a beautiful collection of vintage items that my mother had bought for me, more kitchen accessories to fuel my baking addiction and of course, books upon books. I was also treated to a luxurious hour long hot stone massage at a local spa by my boyfriend, even though at the time of my birthday we had only been on a few dates – he quickly won me over! I was very touched by all the lovely gifts I received, along with some truly heart-warming cards.
 A beautiful collection of presents
Postcards from Vogue: 100 Iconic covers, Macaroon making book and cream leather gloves
 Laduree: Entertaining and a stunning vintage pearl hat pin
Two black velvet clutches
 Possibly my new favourite purse - this vintage beaded number
 A vintage, fairy tale mirror
Vintage jewellery such as this gorgeous brooch, or a stunning vintage beaded necklace from my sister.

So many of my lovely presents have since been used in my styling work or as props for photoshoots and I feel very lucky to have a mother who shares the same style as me! Mum, how did you manage to get it so right again? (:

Thank you to everyone who made my birthday so special, it was fit for a princess!