The yearly Secret Garden Party festival is not just a festival, it’s a way of life. It’s a community of like-minded, happy people all ready to embrace the lighter side of life, make fun-loving new friends, discover unique new pleasures and do crazy things like wrestle leopard print legging clad men in glittery water-filled paddling pools.
The humble roots of this eclectic event started out in a glorious landscaped garden in lush Huntington seven years ago, where 1000 elaborately adorned revellers got together for music, merriment and slightly saucy social shenanigans. Now a world famous music festival frequented by over 26,000 achingly cool party people in the know, it boasts over 15 stages, a plethora of international musical talent, spa experiences, vintage clothes stalls, tempting world food, fairground rides, art installations – and the chance to fondle a live chameleon whilst donning a pair of sparkly batty riders. As you do.
From the 21st to the 24th July this year, 26,000 achingly cool, bejewelled revellers (including my beloved brother Martin and I) minced about the scenic banks of an massive lake – surrounded by acres of sun-drenched green land covered with various exciting installations, activities and acts. Headliners included Air, Caribou and Primal Scream – which caused mass euphoria in the heaving crowds.
Sassy singer Shura stirred a few emotions with her moving songs about love and heartbreak, Amber Shells caused merry mayhem with their jungle set in the 24 hour bar, whilst DJ Shadow naughtily teased an awe-struck crowd with his spine tingling set, refusing to drop the base for an excruciatingly long time. It was all worth it when it happened though. Oh yeeeeeah.
Weary, hungover souls found solace in the form of the Secret Garden Party woodland hot tubs and the Coyote Moon spa – a ethereal haven offering hot showers, a wood burning sauna and antioxidant-loaded smoothies to help frazzled folk rejuvenate and revive after the previous night’s debauchery.
Festival fashion and beauty was even more fabulous this year, with experimental beauty brand In your Dreams offering gorgeous glittery face art makeovers and Ash Claydon Flowers making bespoke fresh flower headdresses for frolicking sprites and pixie wannabes.
This year’s creative theme was ‘The Gardeners Guide to the Galaxy’ – and with the help of Guerrilla Science’s neuroscientists, extra-terrestrial experts and astrophysicists, everybody was given the chance to partake in an array of zany activities such as space yoga, booking holidays to space and a drugs assault course.
Forget scarves, its all about the live snakes this season darling...
As always there was a pleasing variety of food stalls on hand offering fine wares to help soak up all the booze – including bacon baps courtesy of The Breakfast Club, flavoursome vegan lentil stews by Exotic Tagine and even hearty French dishes such as confit beef and chicken provincial by the fabulous Madam Gautier.
Exotic Tagine - So very noms
Gorgeous glittery face art by In Your Dreams
All in all, this year’s Secret Garden Party (or SGP as it’s endearingly now known) was an epic success. The Saturday night fireworks display over the lake was mind-blowing, the music was on point, the people were beautiful inside and out – all united by their desire to shun bedtime and celebrate life.
Forget New York. Secret Garden Party is the festival that never sleeps.
Manchester has serious foodie-boozy credentials that could seriously give the Capital a run for its money. So if you fancy a weekend of fun and frivolity but don't wanna scoot off overseas, a Mancunian mini break will prove the city has far more to offer than the Arndale Centre, a pleasing to the eye cathedral and chiselled football players. Sharing is caring and all that malarkey, so I've curated a few of my favourite hotspots, to bring you the best places to drink, dine and sleep in Manchester.
This hidden gem is a stylish foodie's paradise in Manchester's uber trendy Spinningfiels and boasts stunning tattoo art inspired decor, incredible modern Chinese food, exceptional service, experimental exotic cocktails and a four meter high pink cherry blossom tree - which you can dine under (if you're lucky to nab such sought after tables). The tree itself is real and consists of hand made cherry blossoms meticulously attached to each tiny branch, resulting in a breathtaking visual effect guaranteed to impress even the most fussiest dining companions. Tattu's dim sum selection is divine, the melt-in-the-mouth Saffron Miso Black Cod may cause you to weep with joy and the Caramel Soy Beef Fillet can only really be described as worthy of a death row inmate's last meal. Be sure to finish your meal off with one of Tattu's exquisite herbal teas - we recommend the blissful Coconut Noir black tea and the terrifically tart Red Berry and Hibiscus blend.
Manchester's most talked about restaurant has been frequented by the celebrity likes of David and Victoria Beckham, Liv Tyler, Paloma Faith and a few of the lads from the Manchester United football team. The decor is effortlessly chic and achingly cool - you enter the restaurant via an artistic geometric-style basement opening in the street, before entering a buzzy dining room and separate bar area - complete with a tune savvy DJ to get everyone in the mood for pre munch mingling. The restaurant serves modern Australian cuisine, which involves an exciting combination of Indonesian, European and Japanese influences, and you are encouraged by charming waiting staff to choose a selection of small plates to share. Sushi lovers will devour the decedent Tuna Roll with Green Apple and Kimchi, whereas those in search of something hearty will be awestruck by the Roast Lamb accompanied by green peas, confit lamb, goats cheese and basil jus.
This spacious, 12, 000 square foot concrete warehouse is the perfect space to enjoy a couple of post dinner drinks late into the night. the venue is known for its back-to-basics style of cooking - serving fresh from the fire pizzas, fish and meats along with craft beers from around the world and charismatic cocktails such as the zesty Grapefruit and Berry - a marvellous medley of blueberries, Tanqueray, grapefruit, raspberry and lemon. Exotic cocktail conoseurs will be more enamoured with the dreamy Passion Fruit and Pomegranate Sling, which consists of pomegranate seeds, passion fruit shrub, Ketel One Vodka and Passoa - a punchy passion fruit french liquor. The venue is regularly frequented by those with an eye (and ear) for the sublime as it is adorned with various artworks by renowned contemporary artists and regularly hosts art events and live music shenanigans. Go with a gaggle of your best friends for late night boozing in a non pretentious lively atmosphere, or for a sexy nightcap and nibble with a lover before retiring for the night.
One of the benefits of this elegant home from home is its splendidly convenient location - just a stones throw away from Manchester Piccadilly train station and approximately 10 minutes walk to the city centre. After checking in and watching your luggage merrily carted off to your room by smiley bellboys, you'll be presented with a freshly baked (still warm!) welcome cookie, which we think is the best welcoming idea ever concocted by a hotel. Ever. Welcome drink? Gah! We'd rather take the gooey, chocolate chip cookie thank you very much. Craft ales, cocktails and other alcoholic beverages can be downed in the sexy Urban bar - perfect for washing down their extensive gourmet burger selection. The bedrooms are plush but not over the top, with outstanding views of the city and 'wow factor,' gleaming bathrooms with large mirrors - perfect for post party preening. And, just in time for the sunny season, the summer roof terrace has recently opened, serving a tempting selection of Mediterranean tapas, ice cold beers, vintage champagne and refreshing cocktails. There's even a fitness room available, full of all the latest booty-toning machinery, so you can work on those glutes before leisurely strolling down for a full English to soak up all of last night's debauchery.
The Hilton Doubletree's summer sale is taking place from now until 4th September, so HHonors members can benefit from a saving of up to 25% at this swanky hotel, with rooms available from as little as £104.25.
This Easter Sunday saw the sad end of BFI Flare - one of the world's longest running and most respected LGBT film festivals, which hosted a plethora of queer films from all over the world as well as insightful talks and crazy club nights on the riverfront.
The festival opened last week with the mesmerising brit flick The Pass - the heart-wrenching story of a footballer in love with his teammate whilst struggling with his sexual identity under the eternally intrusive and judgemental glare of the celebrity spotlight.
Other films included the critically acclaimed Carol, featuring an impeccably dressed Cate Blanchet playing the role of a married woman in love with a young shop assistant, dealing with the social stigma of her sexuality in 1940's Britain, and Real Boy - the tale of a brave 19 year old trans man who endures the agony of rejection from his family before finding love and acceptance though like-minded friends made through social media.
The gloriously bohemian French film Summertime closed the festival and left cinema-goers teary eyed as they were treated to visually exquisite cinematography and the powerful love story of Delphine - a young girl raised by traditional parents on a farm and Carole - a streetwise Parisian activist with a flock of unruly blond hair - and a boyfriend. The two meet at a feminist protest on the bustling streets of Paris and quickly form a passionate, unyielding bond which takes them to the lush rural landscape of the countryside before their fervent romance is suddenly tested by the dismal realities of life.
Roll on next year for more arty LGBT film shenanigans....
Attention all foodies and hip hop adoring pleasure seekers…
The West London food and party institution that is The Little Yellow Door has recently announced the six month renewal of their lease.
Founded in October 2014, this kitsch, hedonistic haven in hip Notting Hill is based on a fun, fictional flat share and hosts weekly ‘house parties’ and supper clubs brimming with the kind of friendly, frolicsome folk you could easily see yourself becoming bosom buddies with. In fact, the merry motto of this pleasing pop up, which conveniently takes Whatsapp bookings, is, “visiting The Little Yellow Door, you may arrive with three friends and leave with ten…”
For years, Londoners sick of generic nights on the town, with a craving for ‘something a bit different,’ have frequented their infamous house parties, retro gaming nights, kitchen suppers, Thursday takeovers, indoor gardens and exciting supper clubs with the cheeky Wandering Chef.
To celebrate the happy arrival of The Little Yellow Door’s latest USA hailing ‘flatmate,’ Hank, The Wandering Chef has revamped the Friday night supper club’s menu and will be cooking up a lip-smacking, belly-rubbing, taste bud titillating, all-American feast – to be vacuumed up by excitable guests as they take part in jubilant house party-esque games before tables are cleared to make way for copious amounts of jigging to some seriously sexy hip hop.
I had to get involved...
When I arrived, I was welcomed by a gaggle of gorgeous, happy people and served delicious dishes including soft Savoury Donuts with Sweet Shrimp, Cajun Crab Remoulade smothered in Pickled Chilli, New England Clam Chowder with Shrimp and Corn, followed by heaving boards of Pulled Beef Shin, Buffalo Wings, Smoked Sausage and Burnt Ends. These heavenly offerings wereserved with a sassy selection of sides such as Pickled Chilli and Kraut Slaw, Potato and Bacon Salad, and the creamiest, most addictive Mac ‘n’ Cheese I have ever tried in my life – and I don’t joke about Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Hell no.
Before I got ready to party on the freshly cleared dance floor, I came face to face with the magnificent puddings which were hovering about naughtily – particularly the seemingly innocent looking but exceedingly scandalous Oreo, Banana and Bourbon Hard Shakes and the raspberry topped Malt Cream Brownies.
The Little Yellow Door also hosts laid back Wednesday and Thursday night dinners and Saturday night house parties featuring a menu inspired by “the weird and wonderful characters you find at a party and, more importantly, their bizarre eating habits.”
I adore The Little Yellow Door and its quirky ways. Go with an open mind, your most entertaining friends and an empty tum.