UK’s largest music festival to launch as a social enterprise

Secret Garden Party, a pioneer of what became known as ‘boutique’ festivals, is now set to evolve into a Social Enterprise based music festival. SGP, inspired by an emerging trend towards a more socially committed business model, has decided to go further, and commit 65% of profits to being a force for good.

The mission of this form of business for SGP is to help in the ‘rehabilitation of at risk and disenfranchised individuals via the arts’. In accordance with the rules of being a Social Enterprise at least 65% of profit will go to front line organisations in these sectors. The charities will be chosen by the artists playing and the people coming, and the remainder will go toward in-house partnerships and apprenticeship schemes (such as Bridges For Music).”

Launched way back in 2004, Secret Garden Party won several awards over the years for spearheading new ideas:  the ground-breaking introduction of MAST drug-testing, no branding policy, and immersive audience participation to name a few. Secret Garden Party was a breath of fresh air when it appeared on the festival scene, a Party where everyone could be a participant. Musically it was where many artists such as The XX, Florence & The Machine, Dua Lipa, Kae Tempest and Lily Allen cut their teeth. ‘Gardeners’ have always been encouraged to get involved and escape to reality. Many have followed this ethos with a wave of new independent festivals soon emerging up and down the country, and then internationally.

Founder and ‘Head Gardener’ Freddie Fellowes feels Social Enterprise is the logical way forward for him now:

“SGP has always been founded on a principle of inclusivity. This is a word that’s meaning has evolved and grown up along with us. As a result, we deeply understand how much work and effort is involved in ensuring that a party is truly inclusive. Recently much has been noted regarding how inclusive the music industry is (or isn’t) and this set us thinking about how much more we could go with our core principles of being progressive, inclusive, and relevant.

Rich kids being able to do art for a living may be a reflection of their privilege, but it seems to me like a reflection of the fact that a human who doesn’t have to worry about money will often choose art. Everyone is an artist until rent is due. I wish we all had that right….

Our theme for 2023 ‘A New Hope’ is not just some pithy reference to our pledge to have better loos this year. It is a real Declaration of Independence as we are ensuring that Secret Garden Party (Version 2.0) is a force for good by officially becoming a Social Enterprise.” 

After a 5-year hiatus from 2017 then re-launching post-pandemic last year Freddie was eager to establish a more formal set up that will benefit others.

He continues:

“It is exciting to continue to show that there is another way to run live events and we know that ‘Why’ things are done is as important to our audience as the ‘How’. So, making this pledge to play it forward is something I see as vital right now. We came back because COVID – and lockdown -opened our eyes to what a privilege it was to hold a gathering such as SGP. Now as we stare down the barrel of a ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ that privilege is something to be leveraged further; by establishing ourselves as a Social Enterprise I can ensure that SGP is, and will always be, a Force for Good.”

The estate where SGP is held is still family run by Freddie and this allows the endeavour much more facility to take it further; workshop space and accommodation facilities to mentor, patron and apprentice individuals will now be available year-round.

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