Another festival, another corporate cluster bomb. Or not, as I discovered at the Secret Garden Party.
The association appears inevitable. With an already saturated festival calendar, new festivals springing up like field mushrooms and arts funding down, organisations are going cap in hand to corporations in search of a lucrative slice of sponsorship.
With so many begging bowls about, businesses can make more demands of those to whom they bestow their corporate love. But, audiences are increasingly asking, is this the kiss of death for the festival atmosphere?
At Huntingdon's hidden gem, the Secret Garden Party, organisers certainly think so.
"If you're having a really good party, it shouldn't be trying to sell you stuff", says founder Fred Fellowes. "It ruins the honesty of the experience. There is a corporate exchange in that people pay for tickets, but to use that as an opportunity to sell really undermines the integrity that you'd like to be in the initial exchange of money for entry."
It's a view shared by a vocal minority of festival directors. Recent addition to the calendar Hop Farm prides itself on its anti-corporate stance, announcing 'No Sponsorship, No Branding' on its festival homepage. It's an ethos that has helped them woo the likes of Bob Dylan and Morrissey.
At HowTheLightGetsIn and Crunch, two festivals which I help to organise in Hay-on-Wye, we share the same belief. As festival director Hilary Lawson puts it: "Sponsorship can change the atmosphere and aesthetic of a festival. People come to our festivals because they like the energy, the experience and the intellectual freedom that they are offered. It's not impossible to achieve that with corporate partners, but we are extremely careful as to who we take on and why. It can't be about just money. It's got to be a brand that understands and supports what we are up to and wants to do more than just stick their logo on a tent."
Fellowes agrees. "There is the thorny subject of what you put yourself behind. You have to know 100 per cent that what you partner up with is everything it says it is because if things go wrong, there's no going back."
Even the weekend's performers seemed swept away by the different energy. Ghostpoet, nominated for this year's Mercury Music Prize and a standout festival highlight, wowed a surging crowd and proclaimed mid-set "I'm so happy to be here". One felt he meant it.
From London scenester Bobby Gandolf, donning a red shell suit and whipping insatiable crowds into a frenzy, to Darius the magician, who left us alive with wonder, the festival poured delight upon delight onto the carefree audience. Not even Friday's heavy rain could dampen spirits.
Secret Garden Party is in an enviable position. Visitor numbers exceeded 20,000 this year and Fellowes is launching a new festival, Escape To New York, this August. He points out that at the Huntingdon event, "the demand for tickets outstrips the line-up and the budget compared to other festivals". Visitors flock here for the concept, not just the headliners which pale in comparison to the likes of V Festival and Reading. The trade off is that a whole network of visual artists and live performers, many voluntary, offer their services in exchange for a ticket and help to transform the site into something truly magical.
"A good party, the ones that burn in your memory, has nothing to do with a fireworks display or a headline act", says Fellowes. "It's not all about being a spectator. It's about meeting new people and giving them the chance to take ownership."
It was all this and more: an explosion of past loves, new friends and frivolities as slight and insubstantial as air. Food stalls and bars alluded to the outside world, but we felt quite apart from it. Even the police presence seemed in on the act; wandering amongst the Bacchic playthings like costumed partygoers.
And so we ran around the enchanted garden; in amongst the carnival rides and over undulating hills that led us to giant chairs, floating lanterns and hovering dragonflies. And if we had doubts about our new found freedom, an oversized glittering sculpture on the lake beamed down a simple message: YES. Sanctioning our misdemeanours and willing us on our wily ways, it was perhaps the only form of coercion on the site.