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In a "senseless act of beauty", SGP founder Freddie Fellowes is axing one of the UK's best-loved and most successful boutique festivals
By Jon Chapple on 02 Mar 2017
There will be no Secret Garden Party (SGP) beyond 2017, the festival’s founder, Freddie Fellowes, announced this morning.
The multi-award-winning Cambridgeshire event – this year headlined by Crystal Fighters, Metronomy and Toots and the Maytals – yesterday teased its “biggest-ever announcement”, but few expected that announcement to be of its cancellation.
A press release from SGP, which has grown exponentially since its founding in 2003, says it was a difficult choice to axe the festival, “as either too early or too late would have consequences for the loyal gardeners [festivalgoers]”.
Festival promoter Backwoodsman Ltd’s latest full-year accounts show it lost £115,319 in 2015, an improvement on 2014’s -£182,002. At a capacity of 32,000, SGP is the largest outdoor event in the UK with no sponsors or brand partners.
“Fifteen years ago I started out with a set of ideas as to what makes a good party and the most perfect venue for it,” says Fellowes, who as the eldest son John Ailwyn Fellowes, 4th Baron de Ramsey, is heir apparent to the de Ramsey baronetcy. “But with no set idea of what the destination was for this venture, the festival was, at that time, the perfect medium through which to explore these ideas. But rather than getting too excited and telling you about the phoenix we are going to raise from all of this, it bears explaining why we are lighting the fire.
“This summer will be the almighty send-off that the Garden Party deserves … think of it more as ‘Dylan goes electric’ than our Altamont”
“Much has changed since our first Garden Party, when there was nothing else like it in the UK: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had yet to be invented and no one knew what a boutique festival was, let alone glamping.
“Since then the Garden Party has defined and redefined outdoor events in the UK, [and] we have done so as a collective of truly independent outsiders. We have never compromised our principles and we never will. SGP has always been a beacon of what you can do within those terms and, as imitation – being the sincerest form of flattery – proves, it has set the bar for everyone else going forward.
“But it is exactly because of those principles, and the love of those who have made the Garden Party what it is, that we are committing this senseless act of beauty.
“What better way to honour the love that has been given to this project and wholly demonstrate this principle than finishing now? This isn’t some principled self-immolation; this is opening up it for the future. So this summer will be the almighty send-off that the Garden Party deserves, and while that is going to cause some tears to be shed, think of it more as ‘Dylan goes electric’ than our Altamont.
“Because, after all, you can’t be avant-garde from within an institution and lest we forget: the frontier always moves.”
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