Monday, July 27, 2015

Latitude Festival 2015 Introduction

Latitude Festival, sharing its organiser, could be regarded as Reading and Leeds for a more mature audience, though at the side of Primavera, I was surprised by the prominence of young people in the crowd. The middle class positioning is reflected in a more eclectic line-up, the genteel country location, and a  steep increase in ticket prices since its early days. The inconvenience of a site in the eastern fringes of England, accessed by traffic clogged narrow rural roads, is outweighed by the beauty of the setting. The lake forms the iconic Latitude view, and this year offering wild swimming, but I found the wood to be the most atmospheric element. The beautiful third stage was in its midst, but alas often felt overcrowded. Indeed, the limited capacity here made the secret sets by Ed Sheeran and Thom Yorke too exclusive to gain entry for those, like me, who were on the front rail for the main acts. 

At the side of Green Man, with its smaller audiences, and Primavera with a far more spacious site, at times it felt claustrophobic, and also initially difficult to navigate. The festival started off slowly for me, as the first day’s line-up proved to be less compelling than the others, and I often found that the more interesting acts were concentrated into the peak time period, leading to some heart breaking evening clashes across the almost too numerous stages. Perhaps the organisers were keen to ensure that we paid attention to the non-musical offerings for which Latitude is renowned, notably comedy, theatre and literature. Yet, overall, Latitude’s tenth anniversary must be declared an overwhelming success, aided by dry, often sunny weather. The Guardian described it as a ‘countrified Coachella’, with its guest appearances, but it’s quintessentially English, not just in the setting, but in the laid back approach of the staff, with a welcome lack of officious security, and the abandon of its revellers, who were more interested in hedonism than being seen.

Latitude is also notable for a genuine commitment to sustainability: a deposit scheme for glasses ensured that there was none of the plastic waste which marred Primavera, whilst they willingly supplied me with electric car charging facilities. Corporate sponsorship was also kept in check, and there was a welcome absence of divisive VIP areas. Its roots go back much further than 10 years, to the father of festivals, Glastonbury. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking for a mid sized UK festival.

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