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Latitude Preview: The Final Countdown

Well this is the week. Across the land tents are being dug out of lofts, a desperate hunt for tent pegs and a frantic search for instructions on how to put the tent up. For newcomers, it’s a tread through the veritable minefield of camping stores for a new tent. One man, two man, tepee, dome, pop-up tent- the choice is bewildering.

It can only mean one thing, festival season is well and truly upon us, and here in East Anglia the next festival on an ever increasing festival calendar is the sixth year of the Latitude Festival at Henham Park near Halesworth.

It’s more than just a music festival shouts the advertising and it certainly is. While the likes of Glastonbury, the V Festival and Reading dabble in a multi-disciplinary line up, at their heart they are still mainly platforms for music. Latitude is, and has always been, proud to be different. Alongside some of the biggest names in music you’ll see comedians, poets, dancers, theatre, and a variety of other art forms. This eclectic mix is reflected by an equally eclectic audience in one of the most family-friendly audiences on the festival circuit. Security scares may have cast a shadow over last year’s event but that doesn’t seem to have deterred the fans, with the festival expected to once again sell-out before the gates open.

Founder and creator of the Latitude Festival Melvin Benn reflects on the success of the festival: “I am extremely proud of what has been achieved over the past five glorious years of Latitude. Latitude truly is ‘more than just a music festival’ and this year’s programme across the full spectrum of arts and music is utterly exceptional.”

Organisers are not content to rest on their laurels, however. “We’ve been listening to our loyal fans and this year, for our sixth edition, we are making some changes to the site which will further enhance everyone’s enjoyment of their favourite festival weekend.” says Benn.

The festival goers themselves are a key element to the success of Latitude, and a major contributor to the local economy. Once the campsites open on Thursday afternoon, until the last stragglers depart on Monday around 35,000 festival goers will have passed through the gates, smaller than the mega Glastonbury, yes, but that’s part of the appeal of Latitude.

With 15 separate arenas, as well as a range of mobile, ad-hoc performance spaces, it is impossible to cover everything that the festival offers but for the determined festival-goer the line up offers plenty of temptation.

For Jon Dunn, curator of the music arena’s its difficult to choose a personal highlight:
“Where do I start? The National, Paolo Nutinin, Suede, Paloma Faith, Foals, Deerhunter… I could list the bill but you know that. I’m very excited about this year’s Latitude, I feel it will bring more highlights than ever before.”

Alongside established headline acts, Latitude has a strong tradition of nurturing up and coming talent. One of this year’s main acts, Paolo Nutini, opened the inaugural Latitude Festival back in 2006 as name to watch and returns to headline this year’s festival.

Local talent is well represented in the park; Framlingham-based singer songwriter Ed Sheeran is riding high on chart success at the moment but has been a fan of Latitude since its inception, while Kieren Dickens from Ipswich will be brining his unique rap style to the Lake Stage.

Unlike any other festival, Latitude brings together the whole arts spectrum in one place, offering audiences the chance to dip into art forms they may not normally consider.

Programming such a wide area is a challenge but one that Arts programmer Tania Harrison relishes: “Each year it’s a challenge to bring new and interesting performances to Latitude but I’m especially excited about this year’s line up. There will be brilliant and innovative theatre performances all across the site an arenas and some may be quite unexpected and different from what we have ever done at Latitude before.”

Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis has this week cast doubt on the future of Glastonbury and other major music festivals, citing economic difficulties and changing expectations. Here at Latitude organisers seem more confident, signing a new 15-year lease on the Henham Park estate, taking the event up until its 21st birthday.

Given its past history of innovation it will be fascinating to see how the festival develops by then.


— Glen Pearce — Follow Glen’s Latitude Tweets on Twitter @glenpearce1
Glen’s website blog: www.glenstheatreblog.com

Glen Pearce is based in Suffolk and his reviews focus on the vibrant arts scene in East Anglia but also cover frequent trips to London and beyond. On average he sees around 150 shows per year, from small scale fringe shows to major West End productions.

Glen trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and has worked as a stage manager, lighting designer, box office, front of house, in theatre management and arts marketing. He has reviewed for the regional newspapers in East Anglia.

In addition to his own blog he also contributes to OneSuffolk, blogs for Arts Professional Magazine, contribute to UpTheWestEnd.com and is also the resident theatre critic for BBC Radio Suffolk’s Drive Time show.


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