Latitude Festival review 2018 – Music, comedy & venue

I’m back home from Latitude festival and have taken a day off to rest after a weekend of non-stop performances and fun in the sun. Today I’m sharing my photos and a review of the best bits of this year’s festival so read on to find out what went well and why you should book your ticket for next year right now!

Things have changed at Latitude festival. Some changes were almost imperceptible but elements of the festival have definitely improved over the years. I enjoyed this year’s festival more than ever and I’ve put it down to a number of elements that made it feel like a really special weekend…

MUSIC

It seems like an odd thing to say, considering that Latitude is a music festival, but I was pleasantly surprised by the music performances. The thing is, I don’t go to this festival for the music – I’m a comedy fan and let’s just say that it’s been a while since I listened to Radio 1 religiously. But this year’s line up had plenty of names I recognised and, I’m pleased to report, they actually performed the songs you want to hear.

The trouble with headline acts is that I’ve sometimes found that they’ve been performing songs from a new album and barely touch on the old classics that you are hoping to hear. But this year’s headliners, The Killers, did not disappoint. All the top songs were in their set – in fact, it was like listening to a greatest hits album so I happily bounced from song to song, singing along all the way.

The whole performance was punctuated with streamers, lasers and glitter canons, and it felt super-showbiz thanks to Brandon Flowers’ bright white smile and Vegas-style sequinned lapels. Liam Gallagher popped onto the stage for a bit but didn’t join in with a performance as he ‘didn’t know the words’! However, most of the crowd DID know the words so you can imagine how loud and excited the audience was when the band finished their set with a highly-illuminated rendition of Mr Brightside. It was my best festival moment EVER.

I also enjoyed the fact that so many local performers were in the line-up, including Bessie Turner (who I’d recently seen singing at Old Jet) who starred on the BBC Music Introducing stage on Friday night. The honour of kicking off the whole festival on Thursday evening went to local lad Skinny Rodgers and his band. They took to the Solas stage in the woods and drew a big crowd of early arrivers, giving the audience a chilled-out introduction to their weekend of fun.

VENUES

Another thing that I didn’t think I’d be writing much about in my review post is the location. I mean, it’s at the same place every year, right? But what I want to tell you about is how much the venues within the festival have improved this year. First of all, I’d like to give the organisers a big hand for increasing the capacity of The Comedy Arena and The Speakeasy. Both have been given a ‘big top’ makeover, with much more space for a larger audience. I think that Festival Republic has realised just how many visitors attend to see non-music performers and have improved these stages no end.
Another thing I enjoyed was that the venues themselves had been ‘dressed up’ for the occasion. The Lake Stage had hundreds of pretty ribbons flowing out around the edges, attached to flower-covered poles. This made the space around the stage feel bigger and created a canopy that felt like an indoor arena. The comedy tent was dressed up with purple and pink sails, and the Solas stage was probably one of my favourites with stretched canvases decorating the front.

AROUND THE ARENA

I noted an improvement in the general decor of the arena as a whole. The layout seemed to be more thought-out with a street feast dining zone in the centre. All the food vendors seemed to be smaller, independent companies and there was a wider variety of cuisines available. The food area was decorated with fairy lights, lanterns and had long tables laid out school canteen style in the centre. Even the plastic chairs had that back-at-school in the 90s look. There were interesting art installations around the arena too, providing plenty of opportunities for instagram photos. A twirling umbrella installation provided seating during the day and lit up at night. A circle of pallets covered by a bunting-and-fairy-lights ‘teepee’ was a cute meeting place. Even more pallets were stacked up as sign-posts to direct visitors to the different arenas, and they too were illuminated in a rainbow of colours at night. In fact, in the evening, every vista looked twinkly, magical and was lit up in vivid hues.

I can’t be sure if more signs have been added for the stages but I spotted so many glitter-covered signs, neon words and oversized circus-style illuminated letters. It’s like the organisers hopped inside my mind and created the kind of festival arena ‘decor’ that dreams are made of. Oh, and there was a second Latitude sign in front of the BBC Music Stage, providing another place for groups to pose for photos.

COMEDY

Comedy is the reason I go to Latitude festival so you can probably imagine how happy I was to see a comedy arena without walls and with plenty of space for the audience. Even from the hessian barriers at the far reaches of the arena you could see the stage and easily watch the performer on the large screens. I still preferred to be in the centre of the arena (out of the sun and in amongst the action) so I got there early to get a great view of my favourite comedians.The comedy tent was predictably heaving for the first show on Friday morning: QI Live. Hosted by Sandi Toksvig and featuring 4 comedians, it was bound to draw a big crowd of comedy and TV fans alike. Of course, Alan Davies was part of the panel and I’ve been a big fan since watching him perform in the What’s Up Dockers charity gig in the 90s. I hadn’t seen him perform live since, and was delighted to catch his set on the Saturday afternoon. After the hilarious live QI show I stayed put and enjoyed a further 12 comedy performances that day. Highlights included Joel Dommett, Matt Richardson, Rachel Parris and Jayde Adams, (who both incorporated songs into their sets) and Angela Barnes, who I’d recently seen at Cambridge Junction.

It wouldn’t be Latitude festival without Marcus Brigstocke (who was on the QI panel, as well as performing his own set) but no-one could have imagined what his new show would be like until he marched onto the stage in full costume and make-up. There were plenty of comedians on the other stages too, so I kept an eye on The Speakeasy, The Cabaret Theatre and the Music & Film Arena, where we saw Richard Ayoade in conversation about his films, northern rising star Chris Washington, one of our festival favourites Eshaan Akbar, uber-famous James Acaster, Jack Barry (the face of McCoys) and must-see comedian Jen Brister.

We’d be here forever if I was to list all the acts I saw in the Comedy Arena, but I will mention my absolute favourite of the whole festival: David O’Doherty. I first saw him perform with his tiny keyboard at Latitude in 2016 and it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. I mean, tears of laughter funny. I’ve been keeping an eye on his website for performance dates ever since and I’d just booked tickets for his upcoming UK tour. So when I spotted his name on the line-up I knew exactly where I would be on Sunday at 2:25pm. My husband went off to see Reggie Yates in the Speakeasy (where he got his book signed, good ol’ Reggie!) but I stayed put for another killer performance by David O’Doherty – how does he keep come up with new songs that get me rolling on the floor laughing? Brilliant delivery and genius keyboard skills.

There were countless live recordings of podcasts all weekend, and I particularly enjoyed Pappy’s Flatshare Slamdown, which went on well into the night on Friday. The final show of the festival for us was John Cooper Clarke’s poetry performance in The Speakeasy. We made sure we got there about an hour before the show to get a space and I’m glad that we did, as the arena quickly filled up to full capacity when his performance was about to begin. The combination of exceptional poetry and cheeky jokes was a winning combination to finish the weekend on a high.

Were you at Latitude festival this year? Let me know in the comments below and tell me your favourite performances of the weekend! And let me know if you’re planning to go next year after reading this review, maybe I’ll see you there haha!

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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