Phoebe Cross and Tom Saunderson spent the 17th – 20th July at the ninth Latitude festival in Henham Park, Suffolk, a festival renowned for its range of quality arts-based entertainment across the board. Here, showered and well rested, they cover their top picks from the event (in no particular order).
Comedy, music, theatre, film, poetry, literature, dance, cabaret, disco sheds and graffiti art. We really were spoiled for choice in what to see and do, and it was fantastic to be able to dip in to anything you wanted all whilst feeling more cultured for it. You could go from a physics lecture on space to doing some knitting in the crafts tent, and after that go and watch up-and-coming acts as well as more established artists such as Haim and The Black Keys, and all in a single afternoon! The site geography itself was also varied with a lovely river running through, some nice woodland areas and of course the colourful spray painted sheep. It’s the perfect sized site too, so it’s fairly easy to locate your friends if you go and watch different things. The variety of food served was great, although it’s the falafel and hummus every time for us!
The friendly and welcoming atmosphere
Amazingly, festival staff were on hand to help out with carrying your stuff when you arrived – this is something we have never before encountered at large festivals and was a stellar start to Latitude! The toilets were also kept consistently clean (always an obstacle at festivals), with there always being enough loo roll and hygiene gel. Ace. You weren’t allowed to take your own alcohol in to the arena, which probably kept the atmosphere more family friendly, but there was of course the odd bag of wine snuck in via wellies. The eco-cup policy was a good way of managing waste – you paid £2 when you bought a pint in a large plastic tumbler and got it back on returning the cup (or kept it as a nice souvenir), this also encouraged people (read: us) to hunt for ditched cups after crowds dispersed.
The poetry tent
It was fantastic to see so much spoken word, with so many talented lyricists and performers, throughout the course of the festival. They covered themes for all areas of life – from awkward dates to emotive poetry about the miners’ strike 30 years ago. Notable poets we caught included Katie Bonna, Jess Green, Kate Tempest and Scroobius Pip. A poetry rap battle in a DIY wrestling ring on Friday evening was a particular favourite.
Having never seen her live, we were thoroughly in awe of the skillful guitar playing and powerful vocals delivered by Anna Calvi in the BBC 6Music tent. She was brilliant! Currently, Anna is working on a new album with Roger Waters, Nick Cave and Tom McRae.
Playing to an absolutely packed Alcove tent, Dingus Khan have garnered a dedicated fan base and it quickly became no surprise why. The band came on stage dressed in white boiler suits, except for frontman Ben Brown who opted for the classy old-lady dress. With what appeared to be at least 6 members, some who just seemed to drink and dance on stage most of the time, it was a very entertaining set. Stage invasions forced security to react and crowd surfing was encouraged. Crowd favourites included ‘Ambulance’, with accompanying dance; ‘Made A List’, with accompanying whistling; and ‘Knifey Spoony’, with accompanying circle pits. Dingus Khan clearly know how to have fun, and their sense of humour put this set a step above.
Apparently yoga is the best hangover cure! With three sessions a day free of charge, anyone could go along to a class and do some relaxing stretching and breathing exercises; a great start to any morning. Very zen. Certainly very fitting for what has been described as a ‘middle class’ festival such as Latitude.
Poor Lily received a bit of a rough time after the announcement that she’d be taking over Two Door Cinema Club’s headline slot, but she certainly pleased thousands of fans with her energetic performance. Appearing on stage wearing a Two Door Cinema Club T-shirt, her set included a cover of their hit ‘Something Good Can Work’. She also did a surprise set by the lake stage prior to her headline gig. Good on her!
Essentially the first of the music acts (bar The Irrepressibles’ Thursday night waterfront performance), Slow Club performed much of their brand new album, ‘Complete Surrender’, sprinkled with a few “golden oldies”. The new material has a completely different dimension compared to the first albums, and its dancier nature really managed to fill the daunting Obelisk stage. This was no doubt helped by the addition of a drummer and bassist, providing the duo the ability to implement these extra layers (although Rebecca still returned to drums at one point). Their rendition of ‘Suffering You, Suffering Me’ really stuck out, with amazing 70’s-esque vocals, but old fans were treated to a sing-along with their final song, ‘Two Cousins’.
Bombay Bicycle Club
This band were a must see for most people at Latitude, and for good reason. Long story short, they opened with ‘Overdone’, and closed with ‘Carry Me’ with the majority of their new album, ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’, inbetween and of course sprinkled with older hits. Bombay are always a very solid and interesting band to see live, with lead singer Jack Steadman managing to imbue his riffs with so much more power than is conveyed on the records.
With relatively little in the way of released material, Vaults took the blogosphere by storm in late 2013, and as such their debut festival appearance was a hotly tipped performance to catch. The synthpop trio were joined by a strings section, glockenspiel and more. The expanded band brought a fuller sound (something synth based bands can often lack in a live setting), however, the stand out instrument remained to be the lead singer’s voice. The iArena is probably the most atmospheric festival stage going; the surrounding trees and covering tent provided the perfect low level lighting for Vaults, despite their mid-day slot, and the forest view behind the band made for a wonderful backdrop. This may have been their first festival appearance, but the huge applause they received would make you think twice.
Other acts delivering fantastic sets and worth checking out include: First Aid Kit, The Acid, Circa Waves, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Crystal Fighters, Haim, Atomic Bomb! Who is William Onyeabor?, Parquet Courts, Agnes Obel, Billy Bragg, Roksopp and Robyn and George Ezra. Apparently Once the musical was also great too!
Overall we had an absolutely fantastic time at Latitude and would certainly return – it’s definitely at present a festival you can go to not matter your age or interests. Our recommendations to the organizers for next year’s 10th anniversary are:
- More tea tents to chill with a cuppa. There’s nothing like dancing till 1am and then crashing out in a cosy place with a hot drink, beanbags and blankets.
- More timetable updates on the big screens.
- Warnings to bring insect repellent – the site being near a river and with various ponds too, we got bitten to pieces!
- More local food and drink vendors – it’s always a nice touch. The food there was pretty overpriced like any festival, but we’d be more willing to part with cash for locally produced food and companies.