Secret Island Party 2015

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Oct 16-Oct 18

Secret Island Party is back. Founder Rachel Frost tells Douglas Parkes about typhoons, appeasing the locals and having the balls to start it all

Five years on from its debut, Secret Island Party (SIP) isn’t much of a secret. The idyllic location remains the same and rather than hawking a few hundreds tickets on the streets of Central – as founder Rachel Frost did originally – this year 13,000 Facebook users have signaled their intent to attend.

Each year the event has gone from strength to strength. Fighting back against the kind of corporate festivals that plague Hong Kong’s events calendar, SIP is proudly grassroots and home to a relaxed, communal vibe that perfectly reflects its lush outer island location. Even the likes of DJ Nipper, ShumKing Mansion, Dr Eggs, Jungle Jim, The Groove Thief, Push, and others, all bringing tunes can’t do much to disturb the serene vibe. Frost tells us more…

Did you think SIP would be a success early on?
At first, people were telling me it wouldn’t work, since there wasn’t anything happening like SIP. There was Clockenflap, doing the band-focused stuff, which worked, I think, because of the big names and it was in the city. That’s the thing – people don’t normally want to go that far out of the city. HK people don’t like to travel. “People aren’t going to camp in HK, they won’t leave Central, they’re not gonna go to something that doesn’t have international DJs or bands,” that’s what people said. I thought, Let’s just see shall we? The 400 who came first time were enough for me to want to do it again.

You were quite new to Hong Kong back then. Do you think being a little naïve, a little ignorant maybe helped?

Yeah, I think I was quite ballsy. I don’t really think about what could happen, I just jump into things and deal with it if it doesn’t go right. There was a lot of fearlessness. If I’d thought about it too much, I’d probably not have done it.

What has provided you with inspiration for SIP?
The reason I love festivals so much is that when I was younger I was always on camping trips with my family. We’d go to big events and I was always in this community atmosphere, meeting lots of people – my parents were quite free, so I roamed around as a child. And when I grew up, I realised I loved the community feeling, the raw environment, of nature, combined with music. That’s what I love about SIP – the community, the organic interactions with people you don’t know.

This year’s theme is ‘fables and fairytales’…
I’ve reigned in the craziness a bit this year. We’ve had a ‘universe’ theme; ‘enchanted distortion’ was a good one, it was quite abstract...

What made you opt for this theme then?
We were brainstorming ideas. I try to think of [the themes] as a whole – what would work as a fancy dress costume, what would work for art installations, how could we make it subtle.

Will you have theatre performances again this year?
Yes, we’ll have roaming actors who’ll interact with people, similar to last year. We’ve got characters like Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, some dwarves, Snow White. They’ll all be roaming around, doing intimate performances.

You have a good relationship with the locals on the island, but they aren’t overwhelmed by SIP even as it gets bigger and bigger?

Each festival I try to go out of my way to make sure they’re comfortable. They were a bit grumpy last year because there were a few too many people in the village school – we set up a stage in there – and I don’t think they understood. It was probably too close to their homes, so we’ve moved away from the village this time, and are stopping music at 1am, except for the silent disco. At the end of the festival, I always take a load of drinks and beers for the villagers and keep them happy that way. So they keep saying yes and they get paid, obviously.

Have there been any other close shaves?

One year we forgot water. We were like, have we got the beer? Have we got the vodka? Only later did someone ask where’s the water? We completely forgot to order it. Luckily I had a supplier at Cheung Chau, so it was fine.

Any other huge disasters?
We’ve had a typhoon once, the one before. The typhoon hit on a Sunday and lifted the marquees. Everyone chipped in and helped, which was lovely. Some camping tents on the beach got blown into the waves. That was pretty bad. We had to stop boats from coming and picking people up. But it turned out fine, everyone was like ‘fine, we’ll just keep on drinking’.

Secret Island Party Oct 16-18, ferry leaves from Central Pier 9. Tickets: $250-$850;


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