A Q&A with Freddie Fellowes

Freddie Fellowes interview

Freddie Fellowes is the founder of the legendary The Secret Garden Party festival, which has just returned for its 20th Anniversary after five years away. This unique festival now gets its own feature-length documentary, That Was A Serious Party, which celebrates the origins, culture and eclectic attendees of this unique event.

A major inspiration and presence in the UK festival circuit, Freddie takes pride in caring for his community of party lovers and is proud to run a festival which celebrates individuality, inclusivity, and pure freedom. He is also a long-term supporter of the charity CALM, which offers help to men in crisis, and he also pioneered safe drug testing at UK festivals by inviting LOOP and Transform to The Secret Garden Party.

Where did the inspiration to make That Was A Serious Party come from?
In its 15-year pioneering history, Secret Garden Party had never allowed any backstage access to photographers, let alone filmmakers – but in 2017 (the year we thought was our last), this changed due to the silver tongues of the director and producer of this film, Dylan and Haseeb.

Freddie Fellowes interview party

Image: Danny North

What would you say about the festival for those who haven’t been?
In a festival world dominated by stories of Fyre, theft and rampant commercialism, ours is a very different take on a counterculture that has taken the world by storm.

What were your festival inspirations?
We’d been to Glastonbury fairly regularly but didn’t go to Burning Man until the summer of 2006… it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to… the creativity and capability that’s brought to it are just jaw-dropping.

How did it come to be?
The Garden Party was reacting to something that wasn’t there and wasn’t being fed… it started organically and required a lot of interaction and buy-in from people. [For the first one] about 700 people turned up… a lot of our friends who went loved the vibe, the freedom of what you could do and the style and culture around it.

Where did its name come from?
Kind of by accident, I suppose… We decided to do our own party, but it’s a pain in the arse coming up with the name for an event. We were listening to BBC Radio Four and Children’s story time came on with Secret Garden Party and…

Freddie Fellowes interview garden

Image: Samantha Milligan

Tell us about pioneering safe drug testing at festivals?
That was a great thing to be a part of… We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of our local police force, who were awesome in their response.

Tell us about bringing CALM to the festival?
They were an obvious ally. It started with Eddy Temple-Morris, who first mentioned it and introduced it to me… it fitted with our ethos of responsibility. We started giving them space for interactive art pieces that gave people an opportunity to open up, engage, and acknowledge some of the things that they carried themselves… You need to take care of each other.

”That Was A Serious Party’ is available to rent or buy on all digital platforms from July 25, courtesy of Bohemia Media.


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