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Secret Garden Party adopts social enterprise model

The UK’s Secret Garden Party is to evolve into a social enterprise-based music festival, with organisers committing 65% of the event’s profits to being a “force for good”.

The 30,000-cap event will become the biggest festival to embrace the model so far, setting out its mission to help in the “rehabilitation of at risk and disenfranchised individuals via the arts”. At least 65% of profit will go to front line organisations in these sectors, with the remainder going towards in-house partnerships and apprenticeship schemes such as Bridges For Music.

Launched in 2004, SGP has won several awards for spearheading new ideas including the introduction of MAST drug-testing, no branding policy, and immersive audience participation.

“SGP has always been founded on a principle of inclusivity,” says SGP founder Freddie Fellowes. “This is a word that’s meaning has evolved and grown up along with us. As a result, we deeply understand how much work and effort is involved in ensuring that a party is truly inclusive. Recently much has been noted regarding how inclusive the music industry is – or isn’t – and this set us thinking about how much more we could go with our core principles of being progressive, inclusive, and relevant.

SGP returns to Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire this summer from 20-23 July, headlined by The Libertines, Underworld and Fat Freddy’s Drop.

“Our theme for 2023, ‘A New Hope’, is not just some pithy reference to our pledge to have better loos this year,” explains Fellowes. “It is a real Declaration of Independence as we are ensuring that Secret Garden Party (Version 2.0) is a force for good by officially becoming a social enterprise.

“It is exciting to continue to show that there is another way to run live events and we know that ‘Why’ things are done is as important to our audience as the ‘How’. So, making this pledge to play it forward is something I see as vital right now.”

Relaunching the festival in 2022 following a five-year hiatus, Fellowes was keen to establish a more formal set-up that will benefit others.

“We came back because Covid – and lockdown – opened our eyes to what a privilege it was to hold a gathering such as SGP,” adds Fellowes. “Now, as we stare down the barrel of a cost of living crisis, that privilege is something to be leveraged further; by establishing ourselves as a social enterprise I can ensure that SGP is, and will always be, a force for good.”

The estate where SGP is held is family-run by Fellowes, meaning workshop space and accommodation facilities to mentor, patron and apprentice individuals will now be available year-round.


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Fellowes, Drape, Measham on the case for drug testing

The Loop director Fiona Measham, Broadwick Live’s Jon Drape and Secret Garden Party promoter Freddie Fellowes joined AFEM CEO Mark Lawrence at IMS Ibiza last month to discuss drug testing at festivals and clubs.

The Case for Drug Testing at Events, presented by The Loop’, on day two of IMS, saw the two festival bosses – both of whom have led the way in implementing the Loop’s multi-agency safety testing (MAST) at their events – talk with Measham and Lawrence about their experience of front-of-house pill testing, and its effectiveness in reducing the harm associated with drug use, with Fellowes describing the growth of MAST as “the first meaningful change in harm-reduction policy that I’ve seen in our industry” in 20 years.

Calling for change, Measham, also professor of criminology at Durham University, said in order to avoid future drug fatalities at festivals, “we need to is actually encourage a more healthy relationship with drugs”.

Watch the panel in full, exclusively on IQ, above.


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Secret Garden Party founder scoops award

Secret Garden Party founder Freddie Fellowes admitted he was “humbled” to be presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Festivals at the UK Festival Awards at east London’s Troxy last night.

Award directors’ judged that he “held a pivotal role in the formation of the now thriving boutique festival scene”.

Fellowes said: “I feel very humbled by this, and to tell the honest truth, this has been not only an honour and a privilege but also an utter blast to have been a part of. Every year so many people gave so much to make this party and in return got so much back from it. It was beautiful. I’m glad for all of those people that it’s been recognised.”

“This has been not only and honour but also an utter blast.”

A spokesperson for the awards said: “Across its illustrious 15-year tenure, the Secret Garden Party consistently set the creative benchmark for UK festivals – shifting the focus away from big name headliners in order to cultivate an extraordinarily immersive and participatory atmosphere through fantastical set design and meticulous attention to detail. It facilitated a grant system to encourage upcoming artists and acted as a springboard to a whole host of creative people – musicians, installation artists,  performers, chefs, technicians – who have gone on to forge successful careers around the world.

“In addition to pioneering in the creative side of festival organisation, Fellowes has not been afraid to tackle current issues head on. He has been widely commended for being one of the first organisers to sanction MAST drug-testing facilities at a festival, a practice that has since been rolled out across many other festivals and events in the UK. And, with his wife Joanna he has been very vocal about promoter duty of care concerning the issue of sexual assaults at live music events.  He encouraged AIF to set up the sexual safety charter for events.”

Latitude (cap. 39,999) scooped Best Major Festival at the ceremony, hosted by comedian Rufus Hound. Best Medium Festival went to End of the Road (14,000), headlined this year by Father John Misty, Jesus and Mary Chain and Mac Demarco; while Lincolnshire’s Lost Village Festival (5,000) won Best Small Festival.

TRNSMT Festival (50,000), promoted by DF Concerts on Glasgow Green, picked up Best New Festival, and Camp Bestival won Best Family Festival. CODA won Agency of the Year, while SJM Concerts picked up Promoter of the Year.

The UK Festival Awards are decided by a combination of public vote and industry judges. Previously held at the Roundhouse, it moved to the Troxy for the first time this year. The UK Festival Conference, usually held on the same day as the awards, was discontinued.

The full list of winners is:

Best Major Festival
In association with Ticketmaster
Latitude Festival

Best Medium-Sized Festival
In association with Peppermint Bars 
End of the Road

Best Small Festival
Lost Village

Best New Festival
In association with Skiddle 
TRNSMT Festival

Best Metropolitan Festival
Slam Dunk Festival

Best Family Festival
Camp Bestival

Best Non-Music Festival
Bournemouth 7s

Promoter of the Year
In association with Imaginators 
SJM Concerts

Agency of the Year
Coda Agency

The Brand Activation Award
In association with CGA 
The JägerHaus

The Grass Roots Festival Award

Best Overseas Festival
Outlook Festival

Best Festival for Emerging Talent
In association with Skiddle 
Dot to Dot Festival

Line-Up of the Year
In association with Tuned In Travel 
Liverpool Music Week

Best Festival Production
In association with PRG XL Video 
Lost Village

Marketing Campaign of the Year
Kendal Calling with Tour.Media

The Innovation Award
In association with Transition Video 
The Loop

Concession of the Year

Best Hospitality
In association with Pernod Ricard 
Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park

The Outstanding Contribution to Festivals Award
Freddie Fellowes


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Secret Garden Party 2017 to be the last

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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