words by Jacqui Wonder

“We came and we gardened” is what the 5,000 odd costumed, hungover lovers who journeyed to Camden this past weekend will be saying to each other recounting their epic tales of Secret Garden‘s 7th birthday.

I joined the festival this year as a virgin – gardener that is – so naturally I sussed out stories from everyone I knew who had been before. Interestingly not a one asked who was playing or who I was excited to see but they did all ask me what I was wearing.

SG’s pyjama themed birthday party made that easy for night one – guys fulfilled fantasies cross-dressing in nighties, girls dressed up as pillows and dreamcatchers, needless to say I felt pretty lame in my Kmart slippers and eye mask. If you plan to join this merry band of maniacs in the future, be sure to bring your costume game.

Feelings of inadequacy and costume envy faded as I settled in the garden, discovering just how much magic goes in over the months designing the festival’s many special spaces that open up over the course of Friday and Saturday – like the pillow fort, fairy garden, teepee or Chinatown (I have no recollection if that’s what these places were actually called, but they make sense in my head).

We had some serious rocking out at the birthday party with Spookyland, Gang of Youths and Little Bastard. Peter Combe with the Bellyflop in a Pizza Band brought the playschool vibes and when our feet were ready for something more rhythmic than the hokey pokey we had Milwaukee Banks, Oisima and Willow Beats.

Saturday, touted as the main event, brought new areas of the garden to be explored and a full day’s lineup. We found ourselves drawn to #CAMPQUEEN stage for much of the afternoon/evening for serious dancefloor business courtesy of San Holo, RY4, and Shantan Wantan Ichiban. Needing a break for our poor dinosaur feet we enjoyed the KISSwolds (aka The Griswolds in the best-on-ground-costumes) at the Garden stage, followed up by power eighties electro brilliance from Client Liaison.

LUCIANBLONKAMP and Japanese Wallpaper were on their game and a highlight to see, but the irrefutable act of the festival was the Garden stage closer Hot Dub Time Machine – if you haven’t seen his special brand of show get thee to a discotheque post-haste. Travelling from the sixties to present day we partied to music highlights spanning half a century, with a special dedication to Aussie acts for the recent years of music our lucky country has been producing. Queue head-nod to Hayden James to close us off in 2015, it was a perfect way to close the music highlights.

That wasn’t the end of the party though, with the garden open ’til the wee hours. Sunday morning we woke to hot air balloons rising above the misty paddocks and sleepy campground, even with a hangover it was a goosebump moment. I have an undeniably black thumb but I would certainly visit this garden again.

Rating: ★★★★

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(photos courtesy of Renee Meznarsic)

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