Latitude has plenty of big-name acts to be excited about over the weekend

Latitude 2011 Review

published: Thu 21st Jul 2011

around the festival site (Friday)

Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th July 2011
Henham Park Estate, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 8AN, England MAP
£170 weekend adult ticket, day tickets £70
daily capacity: 35000
last updated: Thu 7th Jul 2011

Latitude Festival, or "Latté-tude" as Russell Kane lovingly refers to it, run by Festival Republic, is now in its sixth year. The low-(environmental)-impact, middle-class, highbrow festival which embraces all the arts attracts great acts across music, comedy, cabaret, theatre, dance, poetry and also hosts art and fashion displays. It hit a few problems last year – with increased ticket sales and attendance, but no parallel increase in facilities, leading to minor concerns about the lack of toilets and the state of these, to the more serious – a couple of alleged rape incidents, reported widely across the media.

around the festival site (Friday)
There have been a couple of cancellations after the line-up was announced - I’m disappointed about Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros; Adam Ant had also cancelled but was then back on the listings, within a day of his website's announcement. Still, there are plenty of big-name acts to be excited about over the weekend and also assurances from the organisers that the facilities have been increased and improved. Tickets have sold out for the fifth year in a row.

The green credentials are still in place with the reusable beer cup scheme (£2 deposit), waste recycling, campers' waste kits, market traders adhering to a green code of practice and a new initiative for this year – a Going Green competition: punters aim to get each of 5 tasks signed off and are then entered into a draw with guitars and drums included in the prizes.

around the festival site (Friday)
The weather is perfect on Friday and 4 hours after leaving London via the environmentally friendly combo of train, shuttle bus and minibus, the tent is pitched. A quick wander around site to get my bearings – Latitude is certainly a pretty and beautifully laid out site. The main bridge across the lake is now a permanent structure and the second bridge seems wider than before. There is more happening on the campsites' side of the lake with an Inbetweeners Teen Area in addition to the Children's Area. The Inbetweeners (aimed at 12 – 17 year olds) is hosted by Greenpeace and includes Monkey-Do climbing stuff, zip lines and rope walks, and bushcraft workshops. The Children's Area looks extensive with lots of activities including pond dipping (provided by Suffolk Wildlife Trust) and 'wild art' as well as carousels and a helter skelter.

around the festival site (Friday)
To reach the Theatre tent, I walk through the Faraway Forest which looks dream-like with various art installations on the theme of Narnia – frost decorated trees, giant snow-flakes strung between branches and snow machines covering us in blobs of foam and delighting the kids, small and grown.

Shlomo is on in the Theatre with his Mouthtronica show which is hugely popular, with people stood at the back once all the seats are filled and many more watching the screen outside (an excellent addition). Shlomo runs through 10 steps involved in his beatboxing art form – voice, lips, throat, loop station are some of the key components, as well as the audience who contribute sounds for an improvised song. Whilst astounding us with his beatboxing skills, he gives us a potted life history too, from showing off his belly dancing as a three year old, via working at a call centre and getting a call from Björk about collaborating with her, through to his recent win of the World Loop Station Championship. Shlomo invites slam-poet rapper Dizraeli on to perform a spontaneous piece with him, inspired by random words shouted from the crowd. An impressive show and exciting start to the festival experience.

around the festival site (Friday)
Back over at the lake, I just catch the end of the fashion show at the Waterfront Stage which has drawn a big crowd on both sides of the water and watching from the side of The Writers' Bridge. There's a bit of commotion afterwards as some screaming girls are chasing a guy down towards the bridge. From what I can make out, it's JB from JLS (I'm a bit hazy on the boy bands!) and the poor chap smiles for photos with gaggles of highly excitable girls as well as shouts of "take your top off"!

In the Cabaret venue, the stage is split in two and one half surrounded by curtains to allow for acts to set up and for smooth running. The next act Bourgeois And Maurice are a flamboyant duo with excessive amounts of eyeshadow and false lashes, eye-popping costumes and songs to match, including 'Out Outfit You' for Lady Gaga, and 'Ritalin' for the kids! The songs are sharp-witted, bitchy, rude, caustic, they make you feel slightly tainted for listening to them, but they are bloomin' hilarious.

around the festival site (2)
Bright Eyes are playing at the mainstage, Obelisk Arena. Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley) and her partner, singer-songwriter, Johnathan Rice, have joined Bright Eyes on stage to sing a Gillian Welch song 'Wrecking Ball'. The Obelisk layout has been changed, apparently capacity is the same, but the area is wider, there are several stands of tiered seats at the back and huge screens so views are pretty good from anywhere in the arena.

There's a surge of people trying to get in to the Film & Music tent, 10 minutes before a short film of Tim Minchin's beat poem, 'Storm', is scheduled to be shown. We've inadvertently stumbled on some jazz instead – 'The Cats Meets Jazz', which goes on for at least half an hour over the time the film was due, and then the stage is set up for the next musical act. There's a lot of confusion amongst the audience and stewards about timings and it's disappointing that there's no compère to let people know what's happening.

around the festival site (Friday)
Over in the Poetry Tent, the Scottish poet Elvis McGonagall is performing – he starts by saying "I've suffered for my poetry and now it's your turn" and treats us to some very funny poems about climate change, the royal wedding, Jamie Oliver and Cameron ('You Can Call Me Dave'). Just across from the Poetry Tent is the Literary Tent where Rory McGrath is being interviewed about his recent book 'The Father, the Son and the Ghostly Hole: Confessions From a Guilt-Edged Life' about his life being raised as a Catholic. The session is being signed (British Sign Language interpretation) which leads to hilarity at the visual signs for the generous smattering of rude words that McGrath uses throughout. This is followed by actor David Morrissey and actor/comedian/turned author Mark Billingham in discussion about the serialisation of Billingham's Tom Thorne books, which Morrissey is starring in. It's an interesting talk on acting and writing skills and where these careers overlap.

Back across to the Poetry venue where Dizraeli and the Small Gods are performing. Dizraeli is a BBC Poetry Slam winner and, with his bandmates, sets his breathless, fast-paced prose to acoustic guitars and viola, with backing vocals. He also performs a couple of unaccompanied poems from the floor in front of the audience.

The Theatre is hosting the debut play of Kate Tempest, a regular in the Poetry tent at Latitude, produced by touring theatre company Paines Plough. It's called 'Wasted' and is presented by three superb actors and a musician on drums, percussion and backing tracks. The stage is littered with cardboard boxes and a screen at the back shows pre-filmed close-ups of the actors' faces looking contemplative throughout. At points during the play, the lines spoken are fast, clever, rhythmic and poetic. Although the characters assure us that there's no message and no hidden meaning, it seems to be about regrets, wasted opportunities, talents, lives, but that ultimately there's a chance that love can redeem us.

around the festival site (Friday)
On the way back, in Pandora's Playground, a large crowd has gathered to watch the Circus Space aerial show – an acrobatic troupe in various guises, including cowboys and ballerinas, are shimmying up poles, being suspending from wires on a tree, dancing and hula-hooping.

Back to the tent by 2 am, the sound of dance music carries across the campsite until 3 am, followed by the pitter-patter of rain sometime during the night.
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Chris Mathews / Helen OSullivan

Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th July 2011
Henham Park Estate, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 8AN, England MAP
£170 weekend adult ticket, day tickets £70
daily capacity: 35000
last updated: Thu 7th Jul 2011


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