Secret Garden Party 2013: what to look out for

Regina Spektor, virgin baptisms and naked trampolining are all on the cards at the Cambridgeshire festival this year. I can't wait

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The paint fights, the macabre costume parades, the streaking stage managers, the limos full of raving rabbits, the wanton destruction of floating ships. The Secret Garden Party has a reputation for beyond-the-looking-glass surrealism and hardened hedonism, as if it were the joint brainchild of Terry Gilliam and Shaun Ryder. Instead it's an expansion of Fred Fellowes's (possibly mythical) 2004 birthday party full of skinny-dipping Bullingdon types and, as I fast approach my first year as a trainee Gardener, here's what I'm most looking forward to.

The Saturday explosion

Every year at SGP an elaborate art sculpture is built on the lake and then inventively burnt down on the Saturday night. Last year it was a flying boat, this year we're hoping for a gigantic George Osborne made of Mumford & Sons CDs.

Flash mob orchestra

Having posted some sheet music online and urged willing participants of all musical abilities to bring any instrument to play along, I'll be strumming my bassoon at the Keston Cobbler's Club's one-off flash mob orchestra performance in the Secret Forum. And that is not a euphemism.

Hot tubs

At dawn, the Head Gardeners heartily recommend festival-goers skinny-dip in the lake, but at dusk they'd prefer we hide our modesty in one of SGP's many hot tubs, designed for group cavorting.

Morning meditation

Out on the Lake Stage in the middle of the lake each morning you can Cillit Bang your third eye and discover your inner Sting at Headspace's meditation sessions. If, that is, you're not easily distracted from contemplating enlightenment by hordes of soggy-wang'd skinny-dippers everywhere.

Reliving aceeeed

After the big fish ate the little fish and was buried in the cardboard box, most of us came down, suited up, got into Radiohead and found a job in accounting, plagued by the occasional mid-spreadsheet flashback. But for some lost and boggly souls, those bold knights of the bosh, the acid house rave of '88 never ended. So, 25 years after the Second Summer of Love, Feast of Fools are hosting an anniversary whistle-fest featuring the likes of Justin Robertson, Terry Francis and Sugarlump Sound System. Just don't take the green ones.

Regina Spektor

There's music too? While not exactly wheeling out the big guns, band-wise – the Strypes are second headliners on the main stage on Friday, and Saturday's main draw is a live PA and DJ set by Faithless – the UK festival exclusive set from Regina Spektor rounds off the weekend in a flurry of quirky vocal acrobatics, coy Cossack vodka-slamming tunes and percussive kisses.

The action camps

Every year, SGP's organisers give a hefty chunk of their profits back to attendees who want to create interactive "art experiences", a significant proportion of which appear to involve getting naked. This year's selection includes the Labyrinth, which appears to be a maze leading to a nightclub; the Supernatural Hospital Camp, where you can discuss your medical, spiritual and psychological issues with an in-house demon; Giant Guess Who, Wonky Races and, oh yes, the Nakeds, where you go to have your picture taken while trampolining nude. And if that's considered tame round your dungeon, why not try the – very hands-on – sex therapy of the Kissing Den, which sounds like Mick Jagger's entire 1968, but this time in a tent. Warning: bassoon strumming in the action camps is frowned upon. And that is a euphemism.

The temple

"A sacred space within the Garden," reads the PR, "a respite from the party, a place of contemplation, of memory, of grief, of happiness; it can be all things to all people." The chill-out tent then, basically, but here you can light and hang lanterns as part of a site-wide plan to cover the place in lamps, glow-sticks, neon face-paint and candles. Sounds like a recipe for a raging bush fire that could decimate Cambridgeshire, but we're in.

Soul Fire restaurant

Every boutique festival, by law, must have a fine dining restaurant you can only get into dressed as the Great Gatsby. SGP has the timber-framed, chandelier-festooned Soul Fire, offering roasts, cocktails and elaborate culinary concoctions from the head chef of Exmouth Market's Moro.

The costume parade

This year's theme is "superstition", so we're expecting parades of people dressed as black cats, broken mirrors, four-leaf clovers and at least 23,000 Stevie Wonders.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Mentally disturbed fans of crass psychological symbolism, rejoice! At last the Bonfire of the Vanities will give you the chance to write down the things that weigh you down – characteristic traits or concerns that you want rid of for ever – and then throw them on a massive bonfire, freeing yourself for a life of unburdened bliss. I'm lobbing on that sodding Kid A review.

Virgin baptisms

Down by the lake each day, SGP veterans will be grabbing first-timers, throwing them in the air and crowd-surfing them straight into the water. Um, did I say this was my first year earlier? Pfft, nah, joking! I've been loads of times.


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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