Latitude's Melvin Benn speaks exclusively to eFestivals

festival boss talks about this year's event

published: Fri 12th Mar 2010

Melvin Benn

Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th July 2010
Henham Park Estate, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 8AN, England MAP
weekend adult ticket £155, day tickets £65, children aged 12 or under free - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Fri 16th Jul 2010

eFestivals got a chance to have a quick chat with festival boss Melvin Benn about Latitude the fifth Latitude Festival which takes place at Henham Park Estate, Suffolk.

Melvin Benn
Thank you first of all giving us the opportunity to speak to you. You are giving Florence and the Machine her first opportunity to headline. How do you feel about that?
I feel amazingly excited about that, I am an absolute huge fan. It is her first album but it has such depth to it, it is so much better than a first album should be. I saw her play an afternoon slot at Reading last year, with a huge audience and I knew she was a headliner. We signed her to headline Latitude at the beginning of September 2009, at that point she had only been in the album charts for 8 weeks. We were so certain at that point she was that good to headline. The idea in 20 years time if she has had any kids and she will say to her kids, "my first headline performance was at Latitude festival", I will be so pleased.

One thing I have noticed in recent years about Latitude is how you are able to recognise real talent and had bands which have now become big like The xx and Crystal Castles. How do you get the right balance between these bands and the real cult performers like Sigur Ros, Interpol and now Belle and Sebastian who have such a mass legion of fans?
Latitude is a music lovers and an artist lovers festival, we don't have bands for bands sake they really have to work. It is sometimes artists, like Grace Jones who didn't know what Latitude is. What she relies on is her agent and her manager to know what works for her and they were absolutely set that is what would work for Grace. I bought into it straight away, some people had their doubts. However afterwards everyone was in agreement it worked wonderfully. Now Latitude has established itself we have a bass platform to work from. The agents and managers now know to come to us with bands who want to play.

So what sort of feedback have you had from previous performers, as I get the impression that they really enjoy the whole Latitude experience?
Neil Tennant from The Pet Shop Boys, was at the festival in 2008 as a guest and he said to me to I want to play at Latitude. They weren't necessarily on our radar as potential performers, but then they have had art exhibitions at the National Gallery, so you could say that they have actually embraced more about what Latitude experience is all about, than other bands.

Back to this year's headliners, so Belle and Sebastian...
Yes, we have talked to them every year about playing at Latitude, but due to schedule commitments they have been unable to. This year they were very straight forward, they wanted to play the festival. They said if you give us the price that we want, we won't do anything else, and we will play exclusively.

I think they are starting to work on a new album.
Yes, I think they will have a new album out in June.

I don't know if we missed the announcement, but one of the slots many of the Latitude punters look forward to is the midday Sunday slot, as that act sums up the spirit of Latitude beautifully - plus the sun is normally always shining.
No, we never announce that Sunday slot this early, it will probably be June. Two years ago we went with Joanna Newsom and last year with Thom Yorke, it probably doesn't get any better than Thom. However we are looking to do something very different this year.

Do you think we have reached a plateau in terms of the number of festivals taking place in the UK?
We probably have as many festivals as we need, whether they all need to continue to exist; or whether one of two fall by the whey side and are replaced. The key thing with festivals is that you need to stay relevant to the audience, otherwise you lose them. That is the challenge for me, with Reading, Leeds, Big Chill they are all very different. Glastonbury, it is slightly different as Michael and Emily [Eavis] look after the artistic side, I don't have anything to do with that. You really spend time thinking about the acts and whether it will work for that festival. You think of an act but then the act is not touring, so it really is a fine balance.

Florence will play the V's, but this is special as she is headlining and it is her gig.

Florence does really own that stage when she performs.
I saw her at the NME Awards and she did a version of Elvis 'Suspicious Minds' and I think that song is fantastic. But the way she performed it compared to Elvis was fantastic, she absolutely owned it. I thought this is one performer I have to take notice of.

One of the great features of Latitude is its beautiful setting. As it has gradually expanded in size over the years, would you consider moving location?
We are very much at home at the Henham site. The lakes, the wood, and the new Faraway Forest area we have created. We have really adapted the festival to the site and it really works, so we will be staying. Suffolk has also really embraced and endorsed the festival.

Ok last couple of questions. What non-musical aspects of Latitude do you really enjoy?
Actually all of it to be completely honest, I would say the comedy really stands out.

Are there any plans to expand the comedy or make the tent it is held in bigger as it is always hugely popular?
The comedians don't want the tent to be bigger, so it will remain as it is.

Finally when can we expect further announcements in terms of acts and performers?
Week by week, there is an awful lot to come. The fine art side of it, we are working very hard on this year too.

Thank you very much for your time Melvin, and I am sure Latitude this year will be even more spectacular this year.

Latitude is confirmed as taking place from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th July 2010, with the festival opening it's gates on Thursday 15th July for some limited non-musical entertainment.

Weekend tickets are on sale now priced at £155, day tickets are priced at £65, and a campervan Pass is priced at £15, family campervan pass £20. Children aged 12 or under will be eligible for free tickets for Latitude Festival 2010 when accompanied by a ticket holding adult.

To buy tickets, click here.

interview by: Claire Lacey and Rebecca Hill

Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th July 2010
Henham Park Estate, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 8AN, England MAP
weekend adult ticket £155, day tickets £65, children aged 12 or under free - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Fri 16th Jul 2010

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