Latitude. What a festival. What a wonderful weekend. It was magical, hilarious, nostalgic and happy. And that’s just my experience of the event. I’d love to tell you all about it today and share some of my photos so that you can get an idea of the fun weekend we enjoyed at Suffolk’s biggest arts and music festival. I’m pretty sure that no two experiences of Latitude would be the same; for some it may be one mad-dash from crowded arena to packed tent, watching the UK’s hottest bands and newest stars; for other’s it might have been a chilled out weekend of lake swimming, saunas in the woods and art installations; for me it was a complete mix of crazy-busy music performances, laugh-out-loud comedy and chilling out in dappled shade. You can tell it’s a family festival by the sheer volume of activities and entertainment provided for children and teenagers; I’d love to share my festival experience with you and here’s what we got up to…
The mornings at the festival were the most calm and relaxed times of the day for me. There were fewer people on the site – it gradually became busier during the day as day guests arrived and campers awoke – and the performances taking place on the smaller stages were generally acoustic and very chilled out. I certainly noticed an increase in volume after midday as the bigger stages plugged in their speakers! In the mornings the calming sound installations, such as the bandstand adorned with recycled can pieces and giant wind chimes in the woods, tinkled and clunked in the breeze.
As the day warmed up and festival-goers descended into the arena the tents and stages became noticeably busier but, no matter what performance you were hoping to see, it was likely that there would be room for you to view the act. Of course, in some of the tents, such as the popular BBC Radio 6 Music stage, it seemed like standing-room-only for many of the bands but there was always space to make your way into the crowd. The highlight of Latitude for me is always the comedy. With more than 40 acts over three days there was always a performance to watch and you could easily lose track of time as one comedian handed over to the next in a continuous schedule of laughs. I had some ‘must-see’ acts circled on my festival timetable including Latitude veteran Marcus Brigstocke and headliner Jason Manford, along with my newest comedy heroes Sara Pascoe and Joe Lycett, whose clever camel improvisation & Tinder jokes had me screaming with laughter. In amongst these superstars I discovered lots of new comedy acts that I probably wouldn’t have seen elsewhere including a late-night improv show in the literary arena featuring Thom Tuck and Deborah Frances-White that culminated in Lycett snogging Brigstocke on stage. That’s the great thing about Latitude festival, you get to experience performances – comedy, music, theatre and film – that you might never have found otherwise. My evenings since the festival have been spent looking up future performances of the new acts I discovered and my calendar for the rest of the year is already filling up with comedy club visits and tour dates.
This type of festival is full of surprises – not least the unbilled Ed Sheeran popping up on various stages over the course of the weekend – and I love finding myself in the right place at the right time and experiencing something amazing. While deliberating what to eat on Saturday, for example, I heard a commotion in the Poetry tent. We nipped into the rapidly filling-up tent to find a fantastic beatboxing session starting up. I couldn’t believe my ears as entire music tracks – drums, instruments and lyrics – were performed by one person! The BAC Beatbox Academy joined together to create a wall of sound with their voices, recreating a number of famous tracks, and the performance culminated in a beatbox battle with members of the group showing off their skills against each other. Simply astonishing and I’m so pleased that I was passing the poetry tent at exactly the right moment.
My absolute highlight of the whole festival also took place in the poetry tent. Nick Helm. Need I say any more? I’d spotted a sneaky performance by this talented guy hidden away in the schedule. I actually ran across the festival site when I heard his gravelly voice yelling ‘Do you like jokes?’ over and over at the audience. I wanted to be shouted at too. Not content with standing at the doorway for the performance I slipped inside the tent and found myself sitting at the very front feeling rather nervous (as I know what Helm can do to his audience) but excited to see this rockstar hero in action.
I don’t want to go on and on about how amazing the guy is because I’m sure Helm would hate the kind of review that I would usually write for this absolute legend but watching him belt out songs, yell poetry and hurl punchlines at the audience in his angry growl was the best moment of the festival for me. I never realised I was such a fan-girl; I wonder if anyone else was affected in the same way by Nick’s performance? I didn’t want it to end and, luckily for me, the next act due to perform in the poetry tent had cancelled so a series of artists took to the stage to perform poems for the waiting crowd including another swoon-inducing poetry performance by Helm.
Now, on to the music. Honestly, it’s a great festival if you’re really into new bands but not knowing half of the names on the line-up really did make me feel my age. Thankfully, there was a decent amount of ‘my kind’ of music too including The Charlatans, Manic Street Preachers and Noel Gallagher closing the festival at sunset on Sunday. A lot of acts that I wouldn’t mind seeing, such as Years and Years and Seasick Steve clashed with the comedy acts I came to see, and let’s face it, I was still recovering from my Helm experience to take too much notice of anything else on Sunday. Still, swaying the night away to ‘Don’t look back in anger’ while propping up the arena bar was a pretty good way to end the weekend and we made our way through the illuminated woods to admire the finished installations that artists had been working on throughout the festival.
There’s plenty more festival highlights that I haven’t mentioned so here’s a quick list of must-do experiences: free gondola rides across the lake and this year lake swimming was introduced; the helter-skelter in the kids arena isn’t just for the little ones and looks great lit up like a beacon at night; a 3D animated light show takes place on the lake each evening; caravans, sheds, tents and wooded clearings play host to non-stop theatre performances, story-telling and films; and – my favourite thing – there’s a huge amount of food available and from the gourmet pies to the naughty burgers it was all delicious. My sunny weekend at Latitude Festival has really stuck in my mind; I’ve been day-dreaming of comedy performances all week, wondering whether beatboxing could be a new career for me and washing the dust off my toes. Loved it. Want more. Will be back.