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On the Sunday of Garden Festival we got locked out of our Tisno apartment.

The bell was broken and Gala, our affable host, wasn’t responding to our firm door knocking and whistling. After 36-hours of semi-constant socialising, partying and swimming, we had come to the end. Our host’s open-plan apartment – the bed, in particular – was weighing heavily on our minds.

Kindly helped in by a friendly local, we finally got some rest that morning. But after five days in Tisno and the surrounding area, the general feeling among our entourage was that you could have put us in a fair few more precarious situations and it probably would have worked out. Things work out at Garden. Following five days of the festival’s rich and varied experience, soundtracked by this year’s expansive programme of music, there was serenity to our mental state that we can’t imagine being achieved at a UK festival.

Yes, if you want to party solidly for seven days, there will always be an outlet. The coast will always be stunning, Prosecco will always be available and one unnamed after-party bar seemed to be constantly kicking off. Though, approaching an event in this way carries pitfalls. At any festival you have to pick and choose your battles. But here, both the natural beauty of the Adriatic and the length of the festival allows for so much more. Due to its seven day stretch, there were friends at the festival we didn’t see all weekend but such is the vastness of experience on offer that no one person’s time there directly mimicked another. Here are some of our personal highlights from Garden’s glorious bow out.

The Secret Island Party

Our bright idea to rent a one-speed boat and tail the official party boats to a secret island took on a bit of a twist. When those we were following moved slowly into the distance and we were left miles away, a speedboat full of fellow attendees kindly offered to tow us the rest of the journey (via a resort to pick up beer). Two hours later, we reached our destination – a beautiful wooded area filled with 200 other attendees. With Felix Dickinson and the Wilde Renate residents on spinning duty, this party was the culmination of the week and a personal adventure that went way beyond the festival.

Boat Parties

The two boat parties we attended each provided singular experiences. The Disco Knights party featured Craig Richards and Seth Troxler but the 80 or so San Francisco partygoers who were all over for the event unequivocally stole the show. This sunset and colour both on and off this boat was magical. The daytime party hosted by Ran$om Note and Dance Tunnel made for an equally heady affair, with Dan Beaumont and Mark E on especially good form and 500 or so exclusive Ran$om Boat maracas a particularly innovative way to spend your brand fee.

Barbarellas

Barbarellas is one of the finest nightclubs we’ve attended and possibly the finest outdoor nightclub. Resident Advisor’s night hosted an exemplary sunrise set from Job Jobse that featured Fatima Yamaha’s What’s a Girl To Do, a special edit of Jamie xx’s Gosh and Tame Impala’s Let It Happen, showing many a DJ exactly the kind of thing you should be dropping when the sun comes up. Lukas’s variation and an encouraging change of direction from Waifs and Strays made for a solid Edible party, the Futureboogie party had many festival goers talking in rapturous tones the next day and, despite feeling a little formulaic, the Seth Troxler and Craig Richards party had us pumping till dawn.

Tisno

Tisno’s welcoming community and tolerance of a few thousand Brits descending on their idyllic 16th century fishing village is wonderful. The restaurants are gorgeous, the seafood is fresh and exploring the less immediate parts of the setting reveals undiscovered views and beaches. Taking a day out to visit the Krka National Park was an unbelievably rewarding retreat from the festival. Europe doesn’t get much more beautiful than this: a valley boat ride flanked by natural forest that opens out into a series of freshwater waterfalls in which you can swim. Stunning.

The Site

Musically, the main stage and the beach stage played the most major parts in our adventure: Talaboman’s progressive techno wanderings, International Feel’s Balearic after-party session and Paranoid London’s aggressive acid techno being the highlights. But beyond that, the consistency of running into enthusiastic selectors playing throughout the day made musical mooching an easy task.

DJ Harvey

Possibly the most apt character to play the final ever Garden set, Harvey Bassett’s musical selections perfectly encapsulated the vibe of the event. From the half hour of ambience at the start, through to the pulsating techno midway and the inevitable disco glory in between, the festival’s culmination was also its musical peak.

The Crowd

Final word on the last ever Garden needs to go both the clientele and the organisation. The effort to sustain a feeling of universality here is one of the primary reasons people return. There is no distinction between organisers and attendees and this familial approach creates the warm feeling that resonates among its audience. Beyond this essential facet, the sheer enthusiasm of the crowd accelerates the free-spirited nature of the event.

Moving forward with a change of personnel at the helm, there seems to be a real determination among Garden affiliates old and new to continue the mantra laid down by this incredibly special festival. Going under the name of Love International, the evolution of what has been achieved here will be eagerly anticipated. The hope here is that more and more people are able to continue to discover what is arguably Croatia’s most essential festival.