Review: Latitude Festival

Sarah Fortescue 7 August 2012

Latitude has become one of the UKs most sought after summer events. Scrolling through the line up, it was easy to see why.

The vast assortment of first-rate acts from the world of comedy, music, theatre and film resembled a pre-booking wish list for Radio 4 and 6 Music listeners- except it was the final line up, raising expectations to promise a truly unique festival experience. The only problem that potentially lay ahead was not having enough time to see everything.

On arrival on Friday afternoon, the comedy arena played host to one of the most eagerly anticipated acts in the form of Tim Minchin. Supported by the controversial lyrical genius of comedic rap artist Doc Brown, a Latitude veteran covering topics from tea to racism, Minchin appeared in front of a packed crowd and delivered one of the best performances of the weekend. Noticing the physical discomfort of the audience (having drawn much larger crowds than the arena allowed for, his audience resembled those on the Central line in rush hour) he made light of the situation in true Minchin style, and delivered an impromptu song about it.

Following shortly after, Metronomy and Bon Iver were headlining the spacious and largely seated Obelisk Arena. Both were outstanding. If a band could characterise everything about Latitude, it would be Metronomy. Quirky, niche and hugely talented, their set of electro indie pop was perfect for an early summer evening in Suffolk. Likewise, Bon Iver seemed to be timed perfectly. As night fell on Henham Park, the crowds gathered to see one of the fastest rising bands of 2012- the hype was instantly justified, culminating with a performance of ‘Skinny Love’ which lived up to all expectations.

What gives Latitude the edge over other festivals, is that there’s something to do all of the time. Waking up at 10am due to an unusually quiet camping experience, there were already un-missable acts in the arena: Brian Cox, Robin Ince and Al Murray making an early appearance in the Infinite Monkey Cage . Unfortunately, everyone had the same idea and it was full. Fortunately, this was Latitude, so Cox and Ince were having another chat an hour later in the Literature tent, this time about the Higgs boson. Strolling in early to secure a seat, it was clear to see that Latitude’s reputation as a middle class festival was no exaggeration: a front row of 10 year olds who all seemed to be named Oscar or Harold awaited their poster boy of particle physics with baited breath.

Shortly afterwards, another festival favourite was due in the Film tent. Due to the majority of attendees mastering the art of securing a good view, the crowd for Adam Buxton’s BUG appeared an hour beyond his show, baffling the hosts of BB4’s ‘The Kitchen Cabinet’ who were subjected to knowing calls of ‘Stephen!’ in anticipation of the 6Music star. Buxton’s crowd got what they came to see – an hour of the same antics which propelled him to fame in the 90’s, with some welcome assistance from YouTube commentators.

Murmurs from the crowd in the main Obelisk arena began to surface regarding the musical offerings of the previous evening: how could Elbow compete with Bon Iver? The answer: Fireworks. Lots of fireworks. The popularity of the pyrotechnic performance pulsating the main stage was immense, and Elbow regained their crown as one of the hottest live acts in the country.

In the way Elbow’s set raised the bar for live music acts across the country, Latitude did for festivals. With a bill offering so much from all areas of the arts, attention to programming detail, inspiring set design and a host of free activities and clean facilities all for the same price as a standard festival ticket, Latitude exceeded expectations and set a new standard, which its competitors will do well to follow.

Sarah Fortescue