Secret Garden Party founder cries as festival closes for the last time

The independent music event has welcomed revellers for its swansong outing.

Secret Garden Party signed off life as a festival with an orgy of mud and mayhem which reduced its founder to tears.

Freddie Fellowes, who formally launched the independent event in 2004, was overcome by emotion as he reflected on his experience during the annual event’s final outing.

He revealed during a question-and-answer session that he decided to lay the festival to rest over concerns other festival organisers had begun stealing their concept.

The Cambridgeshire weekender bowed out to the sound of ska stalwarts Toots and the Maytals on Sunday night, rounding off four days which left revellers caked in dirt.

Mr Fellowes came onto stage after the last act and thanked revellers for their contribution to the festival’s legacy, before dropping the microphone and walking off to cheers.

On site, a facility which allowed punters to test their street drugs before taking them saw a sharp rise in interest, probing the wares of 710 people.

Volunteers at the tent were left baffled by the apparent rise in the use of an anti-malarial drug being sold as cocaine.

The festival stayed true to its reputation for eccentricity with a catalogue of peculiar experiences which included a vast paint fight and a coliseum where music fans, suspended in the air, tried to wrestle each other’s socks off.

In a symbolic move, a wooden house floating at the centre of the tree-fringed lake in the middle of the site, near Huntingdon, was burnt on Saturday night, revealing a giant heart-shaped effigy.

Mr Fellowes hinted during a Q&A with fans, broadcast by on-site radio station Secret FM, a new format for the event could follow.

“I think we are at a stage where we are competing against an industry that slightly robs us of our ideas and our USP,” he said.

“I think it would be easier and better for all the people that have been involved over the years to honour everything they have done for it and actually stop it now rather than just try and keep it going.”

Asked about what lies in the future, he added: “I can say two things, I’m totally unqualified for any other job and the intention behind this, it is something I believe in and I want to keep it alive one way or another, I would hate not to be involved.”

Did someone say music festival?

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He then became tearful as he recalled a conversation with one fan over the course of the weekend, who credited Secret Garden Party for helping battle their low mood.

“That is just so humbling to be part of,” he said, choking back tears.

The award-winning festival endured days of torrential rain which turned its usually salubrious fields into mud baths.

Topping the bill for the swansong event were Metronomy and Crystal Fighters, while fireworks regularly painted the sky above the main stage for other performances.

This year saw the return of a scheme which allowed drug users the chance to test their substances at a tent run by charity The Loop.

The organisation usually conducts forensic testing of drugs seized by authorities, but carried out its work at the festival with the knowledge of Cambridgeshire Police.

It saw demand nearly triple during the 2017 event from around 250 last year, founder Fiona Measham said.

Samples are taken from a user’s bag of drugs, which is not returned, and they are informed of the results within several hours.

Ms Measham told the Press Association: “At our daily security advisory group meetings they have said medical problems and welfare problems are significantly down, so they think we are helping reduce drug-related problems.”

The professor at Durham University continued: “One of the main things we’ve found is Chloroquine is being sold as cocaine, which are used as malaria tablets – we found that last year as well.”

Prince Harry is among the high-profile guests drawn to the event since its inception while stars such as Ed Sheeran and Florence And The Machine have featured on the line-up before they gained global recognition.

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