In our third round-up from our team of writers, Kris Hallett looks back on his Latitude Festival highlights.
Glastonbury may be the Daddy, Radio 1’s Big Weekend may have the big acts, but nothing beats Latitude for the sheer multi-faceted celebration of culture in all its forms.
Whether you’re a music lover, a reader, comedy aficionado or theatre geek there is something here for everyone. You can spend your festival listening to poets or bask in the sun watching dance on the Waterfront stage. From 11 in the morning to long past the midnight hour there is something to keep you occupied. It’s an inclusive place, from the dancing teenagers always on the lookout for a bunk up in their tents and the families introducing their tots to the joys of a festival, to an older crowd who methodically work their ways through the spreadsheet of what they want to see. Now in its tenth year, Latitude has become a central part of the British festival calendar. With three days of glorious sun, it couldn’t have asked for a better weekend in which to celebrate this milestone.
The theatre section was particularly strong this festival. Paines Plough presented a double bill of Sabrina Mahfouz’s work on the Friday, which saw searing performances blend with her unique theatre voice and suggests that we will see much more from this writer over years to come. Dracula on Saturday night was bat-shit crazy, an operatic steam-punk version of the tale that was messy and thrilling in equal measure while the premiere of a new Kneehigh piece is always newsworthy even if we didn’t get to see the end due to its overrunning time.
With some glorious circus courtesy of Lost In Translation Circus and Chris Goode’s Stand opening the Festival there was so many voices on offer and so much good work on these shows will become staples of theatre programming over the next 12-18 months. It was left to Bryony Kimmings and her partner Tim Grayburn’s Fake It Til You Make It to provide the festival highlight for me though with an intensely moving study of clinical depression which left a packed theatre tent in tears.
It was a mixed bag over on the music stages this year. Alt-J found themselves headlining their first ever UK festival but seemed a little low key for a Friday night crowd who perhaps were expecting a little more bang for their buck, James Blake was little better with a dull set, while Portishead were ethereal and haunting on Saturday night but didn’t do anything to disperse the feeling the headliners were somewhat downbeat this year. Thankfully we could escape over to the 6 music stage where the Vaccines gave a lesson in how to steal a festival in an exhilarating hour-long set. Badly Drawn Boy took me back a decade or so Saturday afternoon performing in full Hour of Bewilderment and Seasick Steve was great fun performing the Sunday afternoon slot. Thankfully Sunday night was brought to a fitting end with sterling performances by the Manic Street Preachers and surprisingly Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds who played a set which thankfully covered the Oasis oeuvre alongside that of his new band. Still there was a bit of a feeling that the festival overshadowed their headline acts this year with secret gigs from Ed Sheeran and Thom Yorke.
Sitting outside in the sun basking in the dance work on the Waterfront Stage was always a treat. Rola and Rodriguez, a company based in Madrid, brought Titanium a sizzling mix of flamenco, hip hop and breakdancing that the women and a fair portion of the men enjoyed for its eye candy as well as its moves. Rambert had there ever dependable Rooster, choreographer Christopher Bruce’s tribute to the Rolling Stones, which saw the company strut, vaultand bring irresistible energy to the sound of some of the bands greatest hits. Still it was the East London Dance Company who really took the eye with a thrilling mix of contemporary and street dance which an appreciate Friday evening crowd lapped up.
I wish I had more opportunities just to wander around and catch things. The work in the forest sounded fantastic, an odyssey into the weird and wonderful but by Sunday afternoon was a little sparse, while the comedy I saw from big hitters Alan Davies and Marcus Brigstocke and the half set I saw from Sara Pascoe suggested just sitting in the comedy tent would have been a weekend well spent. I saw nothing in the literature and poetry tent, same with the film tent, and I only ventured into the ever daring cabaret tent to see the naughty Miss Behave’s Gameshow late on Sunday night to bring the festival to an end. All of which suggests that the festival is in fine mettle, with enough stuff to fill a calendar for weeks as it begins its second decade. Bring on next years. I am already counting down the days.
Photos: Jen O’Neil,Marc Sethi