The sheep may now have returned to their normal colours and can wander the pastures of Henham Park in peace and quiet, but the memories of Latitude 2016 still live on. After a week to recover from a hectic four days, The Reviews Hub’s Nicole Evans reflects on her Latitude Festival experience.
After leaving last year’s Latitude Festival as a ‘Contented Comrade’, and having looked forward to 2016’s offerings since the drive home, I certainly felt like I was returning as a ‘Faithful Friend’ – albeit one who was incredibly pleased not to see a single traffic queue to get on to the site!
With journey times smooth and tent-pitching a doddle, it meant a good exploration of the arena pre-mayhem was in order. Crowds were already gathering but scarcely filled fields and stages still being set up it was certainly an eerie sight to behold; with the echoes of last year’s memories sitting in the background reminding me what the weekend would bring. It wasn’t all akin to the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse though with the Arts’ side of the festival already in full swing, and the trusty Literary Arena was where I decided to park for the start of the evening.
The comedy escapades of MC Phil Ellis and The Horne Section provided the first instalment of the entertainment, closely followed by Fight in the Dog’s loosely comedic take on Twelfth Night for the second, and the third was a well-deserved beer with the review team before sensibly retiring in preparation for the madness that was about to ensue…and madness it was.
The banks of The Waterfront Stage were my residence for a good portion of the festival, with Sadler’s Wells bringing the best they have to offer across the three days. The standard was nowhere near as high as last year, with one performance, which will remain unnamed, resembling a Zumba class more than a Latin piece of rehearsed perfection, but there were a few gems – The Richard Alston Dance Company particularly. All was certainly not lost, however, as finishing up, once again, with a simply staggering performance was the National Youth Dance Company, who set the contemporary dance bar at a near-unreachable height with their mesmerizing production, In-Nocentes.
Dance aside, there were some great theatrical contributions by way of a pitch-black 15 minutes spent in a shipping container for Seance; a spectacularly executed audiovisual experience, 45 minutes in a cosy caravan igniting great emotion for Paper Birds’ Mobile, some less-than-perfect puppetry from Improbable and Blind Summit’s Animo, and a fine example of how improv should be done from Paul Merton and his Impro Chums. The Poetry Arena gave it everything it had got with offerings from Joe Sellman-Leava with his powerfully thought-provoking, Labels, Tom Gill and his rap-esque rhyming prowess and Laura Mucha’s hosting of some Ripped Off Revolting Rhymes to find the juvenile streak in all of us, and although I didn’t partake – the inclusion of many hammocks around the site for tired crowds to enjoy seemed to be proving the perfect rest-bite to the bustling atmosphere.
Musically, this year, there wasn’t much to tantalise my taste buds, but with the stages so close together, it was hard to escape the sounds of the eclectic mix of artists on offer and ride the waves of enjoyment of those who had taken up position to listen. New Order closed down Sunday with style and it was the perfect background noise to finish off the festival with another one of those well-deserved pints !
(Failed) Twitter Selfie Challenges, scorching sunshine, pink sheep, live tweeting, racing from one side of the site to the other between shows, review-writing on-the-go, late nights, early mornings, getting soaked so as not to miss Suggs play a Madness number, dance stages vibrating through your airbed until 3am… I’m exhausted just typing it all. Even so, I’d do it all again tomorrow.
So I still didn’t find Ed Sheeran, despite inviting him for a pint (maybe next year, Ed?), I showered far less than I should have done and it took me a week to recover from the lack of sleep, but you can’t help leaving Latitude on a complete festival high, with the buzz lasting far longer than the weekend itself. Is it 2017 yet?