Luke Wright is the main host and co-programmer of the Latitude Poetry tent. He is a 2007 4Talent award winner, founder of live poetry collective Aisle 16 (who are also performing at Latitude) and poet-in-residence on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live. He reads us a couple of poems one called 'Another Grotty Holiday', a description of his job as a poet, which I can imagine is fairly accurate, and 'Mondeo Man', which seems to be about conforming as we get older. Wright brings on an 11 year old, Alex, who had watched the poetry the previous day and been inspired to write. After a bit of encouragement, Alex recites his short poem about Sainsbury's which is greeted very warmly. Wright has just set up a new publishing company with the aim of publishing poetry in pamphlets for a year and he'll be publishing Byron Vincent, who's on next.
Byron Vincent makes us all laugh a lot with his deadpan humour and self-deprecating comments "I have low self-esteem which is more than I deserve". His poetry and prose is quite earthy - there's a hilarious poem about the perils of the internet, basically a long list of things not to buy online. He tells us he was brought up on a dodgy council estate between Preston, Chorley and Leyland, and then reads hilarious descriptions of each place to give us an idea of how rough the area is.
Across to the Film & Music tent hoping to see the intriguing session of Lightspeed Champion playing Cat Stevens songs from the film 'Harold and Maude'. Lightspeed Champion has cancelled and Jeffrey Lewis & the Junkyard are standing in, which is good news. Lewis shows a couple of his cartoon illustration videos one is an interesting visual interpretation of the Nirvana song 'Sifting' and the other is his song 'Creeping Brain', which is funny and slightly disturbing. They also play 'To Be Objectified' and 'Roll Bus Roll' from their most recent album.
Over in the Poetry tent, Dockers MC, aka Laura Dockrill, is bringing South London vividly to life through her poems and the different voices she uses for characters in the rhymes. Roger Lloyd Pack is up next, perhaps best known for his role as Trigger in 'Only Fools and Horses', he's performing a weighty piece of work 'The Waste Land' by T S Eliot. He's accompanied by a cellist, Melissa Phelps. Lloyd Pack warns us that Eliot wrote the poem after the first World War when he was recovering from a breakdown and explains that the piece is in five sections and incorporates different languages, music even, as well as referring to Greek mythology, pagan and Hindu beliefs. The piece takes 40 minutes and quite a few people in the crowd don't have the stamina for it and leave during the reading. It is, on this listening, quite depressing and unsettling, and seems disjointed. Lloyd Pack acknowledges at the end that it's 'a difficult piece to listen to'. Though his delivery is excellent, I think the poem might have been too high brow even for Latitude.
We go for 'Afternoon Tea with Stuart Maconie & Friends' in the Literary venue; theres no evidence of tea but a box of biscuits is passed around the crowd. Stuart Maconie, DJ, TV presenter, journalist and author ("the English Bill Bryson" according to one review), is joined by novelist Jonathan Coe and comedian/crime writer Mark Billingham, to chat about Maconie's latest book 'Adventures on the High Teas in Search of Middle England'. They have a lively and amusing discussion and take questions at the end, covering issues like "is Latitude quintessentially Middle England?", "is middle England middle class?", and "is the Daily Mail the voice of Middle England?".
SonVer, a four piece London band with guitars, drums and cello, are performing an audio-visual show 'The Alchemy of Man'. (Note: alchemy according to wikipedia is a philosophy and a practice with the aim of achieving ultimate wisdom as well as immortality.) Seven short films are shown, produced by different European film-makers, which illustrate the seven alchemical stages Calcination, Dissolution, Separation, Conjunction, Fragmentation, Distillation and Coagulation. The images are interesting and the musical accompaniment stirring and emotional, sometimes building in intensity and urgency and then falling away to expose the mournful cello. Sadly, I can't pretend to understand what it all meant.
Heading over to the Waterfront Stage, I arrive to see The Irrepressibles perform their last song on a floating music box and realise that I've clearly missed something special. They are a 10 piece orchestra with a gothic look, high-rise hair, matching outfits and lots of make-up. The frontman has a voice described in the programme as "the ghosts of Billy McKenzie and Jeff Buckley wrestling together", a fair description, with a touch of Antony Hegarty thrown in. I shall be looking them up in London.
There's just time to watch Avant Garde before heading over to the Obelisk for the big headliner. Avant Garde is a dance troupe who perform 'abstract streetdance' and for this performance, five dancers, all dressed in black, are combining Chinese pole with hip hop which leads to an extremely acrobatic and balletic dance display.
Latitude, I'm shattered but extremely impressed.
review by: Helen OSullivan
photos by: Chris Mathews
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