UK’s leading independent festival Secret Garden Party (SGP) shakes up the music industry with their announcement to support Chai Wallahs’ Drop a Headliner campaign, in order to nurture grass roots artists for their 2024 edition. Further highlighting a 20 year history as an incubator event for emerging and independent talent. 

In a bold departure from traditional festival programming, Secret Garden Party is foregoing big-name headliners to allocate resources to supporting rising performers and providing visibility for acts to evolve with an aim to leverage the music industry from its current position. 

The curated line-up features over 350 artists includes Unkle, Crystal Fighters, Chinchilla, Franky Wah, Carly Wilford, Adelphi Music Factory, Jakkob, Omega Nebula, Technobrass, TC & The Groove together with independent collectives Chai Wallahs, The Living Room, Noiganica hosting dedicated venues to diverse, grassroots live music. Save Our Scene, Parable Music, Dubtendo and Truth Tribe plus many more collectives are providing exciting stage takeovers to deliver an unparalleled event in July. 

Leaning into their vibrant history that proudly spans across two decades, Secret Garden Party has consistently pushed boundaries forward with their programming, actively championing developing acts. In past years, Secret Garden Party has hosted some of the most exciting talent from across the industry, including Lily Allen, Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa whilst also playing a monumental role in breaking the careers of now global superstars Florence & The Machine, The XX and Regina Spektor who’s first ever festival appearance was at SGP.

Founder Fred Fellowes emphasises the importance of inclusivity, stating “We believe in being a breeding ground for talent to grow. Why allocate a massive budget to one or two headliners when it could fuel another 50 outstanding acts? This year’s focus is on providing grassroots artists the ability to shine, whilst actively redefining festival experiences for the future.” 

Si Chai, Chai Wallahs’ founder says “Having been ardent supporters of the grassroots scene for over 20 years, we were chuffed as f%$k when Secret Garden Party agreed to be the first independent festival to collaborate with us on the ‘Drop a Headliner’ campaign. There is so much more enjoyment to be had in the discovery of new music, and please trust me when I say that there is a massive world of undiscovered talent. For the grassroots scene to survive and thrive, this talent needs platforms and opportunities to be able to develop, so we must address the disparity.”

More than 100 festivals are at risk of disappearing in 2024 as costs continue to soar. This year, an astonishing number face the imminent threat of vanishing unless measures are implemented to ease the escalating operational expenses. The financial strain on the nation’s festivals has surged to unparalleled heights. Without prompt intervention, the UK could witness their gradual disappearance. Recently 34 major events have already declared a postponement, cancellation or complete closure this year, as well as Music Venues Trust reporting 16% of UK grassroots music venues lost in the last 12 months. This is an alarming call to action to save independent music festivals and venues across the UK.

Further analysis underscores an industry-wide misalignment, shedding light on the growing concerns that stem from corporation dominance in the entertainment sector. With alarming figures that clearly reflect this position that includes one headliner commanding approximately £150,000, this is equivalent to £2,500 per minute. The opportunity to re-allocate this vast resource becomes evident, with a recommendation that this figure could finance in preference around 222 individual acts, which would comprise of roughly 1,110 performers across 266 total performance hours. This staggering number would create a marked upsurge in independent music and become a building block for its sustained growth. 

Si Chai further comments “This campaign highlights not only the opportunities for programmers to be more creative with their million pound budgets, but also presents a chance to support a whole ecosystem of artists. It provides greater enjoyment to open minded music lovers, and a healthy alternative to playing the big name game, where programmers are held to ransom by unscrupulous booking agents. 

Goaded into exclusivity battles with corporate players, and lumbered with countless arguments about where someone’s ‘Giant Ego’ appears on a poster, imagine a grassroots scene so vibrant that you could discover something new, to suit any mood, at any time, on any stage, at any venue or festival. If you love music and discovery then get involved…. Roots don’t grow unless you feed them!”

The Secret Garden Party has never just been about the music. Nurturing grassroots creatives from all genres you will see artwork, sculpture, immersive experiences, costumes and performances from multi talented individuals and groups. Blending seamlessly with the audience participation, the curators of this party have consistently fostered a community-driven ethos, dubbing all participants and audience alike as fellow Gardeners.

Save Our Scene inputs “To be involved in SGP is a privilege. A place which has bred so much creativity, talent and amazing memories. There is something truly special about the place and we are proud to partner with them for a second year. Our ethos are aligned and we are excited to showcase some collectives and talent who we believe have a bright future!” 

Secret Garden Party: Roots will be taking SGP back to where it all began. Bringing the anarchic freedom of their early formative years, whilst breaking down the divide between artist and audiences. They promise to create an intimacy and liberation that other festivals rarely offer in this space. This year they will reintroduce iconic areas from previous years, including The Lost Woods, Doghouse, The Garden Shed and The Pagoda. These areas will feature an expanded lineup that crosses multiple genres ranging from Nu Disco and House, through to Techno, UKG, DnB and beyond with a highly eclectic mix of live performances.

Tickets are now on sale and available via the website.

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Secret Garden Party | Chai Wallahs | Save Our Scene