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FEATURE: Latitude 2017 – Bigger and better than ever

Now in its 12th year, Latitude Festival returned to Henham Park over the weekend to present its 2017 offerings to an eager, now larger than ever, crowd. With three consecutive festivals under her belt and now feeling somewhat like a veteran, NICOLE EVANS rounds up her Latitude 2017 experience. 

The excitement of returning to Latitude sets in well before the date for me, however, it really wasn’t hammered home just how much I was looking forward to the festival until the car broke down 20 minutes into the three-hour journey. With thoughts of not being able to make it at the forefront of my mind and the immense relief when I was finally back on the road, it was a massive indication of just how attached I have become to this yearly fixture.

With the main music stages not strutting their stuff until Friday, it was time to take in the, almost pre-festival, atmosphere and head on over to the Waterfront Stage for the first Sadler’s Wells Presents act of the weekend. Thursday evening seemingly had more to offer this year, with competing schedule slots in Theatre, Poetry and the Welcome Trust Arena, alongside the usual late-night disco sheds and stages, to tempt people away from their tents. Despite this, Blue Boy Entertainment drew a fabulously lively crowd for The Get Down and, though it morphed in to
more of a huge party than a theatrical offering, it was just the ticket to get us all in the mood for the festivities that were to follow.

Far From The Norm

Far From the Norm kicked off Friday’s dance efforts with a disappointingly too-slow paced Da Native with Balletboyz later showing us how dance should be done presenting the last leg of their tour of Life. The afternoon brought a hilarious, and all too short, Cabaret set from piano duo Flo and Joan immediately followed by an entertaining hour of mass video gaming from Wi-Fi Wars with the sounds of The Coral over on the Obelisk beating out in the distance; and for the evening treat, while The 1975 made their Obelisk Arena headline debut, Placebo completely rocked out a BBC Music Stage crowd with an impressive set that perfectly encompassed the whole of their 20-year career.

Having glanced at Sunday’s exciting schedule, it felt right for Saturday to be a little more low-key on the action front. Mumford and Sons, who later attracted quite the audience for their headline slot, Gentleman of the Road curation took over the music stages for the day with the likes of Maggie Rogers, Leon Bridges and The Very Best having been handpicked as guest performers. Idles, having completed their scheduled set on The Lake Stage, proceeded to direct
fans to the BBC Music Introducing stage where they treated their followers to a secret gig.

Phil Ellis: Funz and Gamez

Meanwhile, on the arts front, Phil Ellis returned to the Comedy stage with a fabulously funny rendition of his Funz and Gamez followed by raucous laughter courtesy of Nina Conti, ventriloquist extraordinaire, who succeeded in embarrassing some unsuspecting audience members with the help of her Monkey. Sisters Grimm completely mesmerised a Waterfront crowd with their Disney does dance, main stage-worthy, production of Voices of the Amazon and was the highlight of Sadler’s Wells’ efforts for me, while Manwatching attracted quite the audience in the Theatre.

Sunday was officially the day where two of me were required. With so many stars next to acts on the schedule there were some tough decisions to make. Opting for something to relax the mind a little, Lubomyr Melnyk, the fastest pianist on record, was the perfect way to start off a sleepy-Sunday and the crowds leaving the Sunrise Arena certainly looked refreshed and ready to face the last day. Katherine Jenkins, having stylishly arrived on the Waterfront Stage via gondola, treated a full-360° lunchtime crowd to everything from classics to covers while the Comedy saw the likes of Simon Amstell and Katherine Ryan peddle their comedic wares.

Public Service Broadcasting

National Youth Dance Company, a personal favourite in previous years, didn’t quite live up to expectations for their, shorter than billed, performance of Tarantiseimic on The Waterfront, although it still packed a mean punch for the most part; Public Service Broadcasting, despite being suited to a more intimate setting, had their large, rain-oblivious, crowd worked up into a jumping frenzy on the Obelisk and Fatboy Slim – who probably should have been billed as Norman Cook does a DJ set – fiercely competed with main-stage headliners Fleet Foxes during the sought after, weekend finale, top-slot.

Having sloped off early to get into prime position in the Sunrise Arena for Trevor Nelson’s late- night DJ set, a blissful 10 minutes or so were spent enjoying some room to dance to his, made for the oldies, rhythm, soul, disco and funk playlist. Space soon filled as the arena kicked out but the party spilled over into the woodland and he ensured there was no chance of boredom leading to an early night; a fantastic end to a fantastic weekend.

It was initially disappointing to see The Little House theatre stage had been removed from proceedings this year, particularly as audiences have been spilling out of the door for the last two festivals, and that Poetry and Literature had been combined therefore reducing the lineup offerings in the art department. We needn’t have been concerned, however, as it can’t be said there was a shortage of things to see and do, and considering the amount of acts of all varieties some festival-goers manage to cram into their weekend (there were even spreadsheets to keep track!), Latitude certainly remains incredibly good bang for your buck.

Melvin Benn

With the capacity increased by 5,000 people this time around, it’s always interesting to hear how the organisers themselves feel their festival decisions played out. Melvin Benn, MD of Festival Republic sums up the weekend: “Latitude 2017 has been one of the best, and most certainly the biggest Latitude yet – we welcomed 40,000 people to Henham Park this year. The 1975 gave a phenomenal debut headline performance on Friday night. Mumford and Sons and their Gentlemen of the Road Takeover brought with it so many memorable performances – notably their headline set, which was simply unforgettable. Fleet Foxes rounded off the weekend in the only way they know how
– it was stunning. Yet again, I’m blown away by our Latitude audience, who were treated to the finest in music, arts, theatre, comedy and literature. I can’t wait to see you all again next year.”

It’s impossible to disagree with him. Latitude 2017 was equally as epic as my previous two experiences, and they were both difficult weekends to top.

Ok, so I still didn’t find Ed Sheeran (one day…) and I, yet again, failed to make it into a Gondola (next year!), but I did have the time of my life surrounded by fabulous people, eating an amazing variety of wonderful food and with endless streams of both surreal and superb entertainment; some of which I know I’ll never forget.

Latitude, once again, I thank you. See you next year!

Tickets for Latitude Festival 2018 will be available from 10 am on Thursday 20 July.

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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