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20 April 2014

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Event review: Latitude

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One of the few festivals V&E’s managed to miss, we’d heard great things about Latitude. A weekend of comfortable camping with culture in every corner was always going to be a winner

Words: Damien Gabet

Pictures: Danny North, Pooneh Ghana and Jenna Foxton, Jen O'Neil

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What you don’t expect, when you’re sat in a wood, having a recuperative cig, is for a man to appear on a small stage insisting that you, and every one around you, learn how to do the lindy-hop Charleston. But that, on Sunday afternoon at Latitude festival, is what happened. And naturally, we obliged.

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Since 2006, Melvin Benn’s Festival Republic, has been attracting M&S lefties to Henham Park, in the depths of Suffolk’s countryside, for three days of outdoor multi-arts entertainment. This is comfortable festivaling.

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Overhearing an argument on the provenance of a partridge bap or the present-day relevance of Germaine Grier’s literary stance isn’t unlikely. In fact, we heard it. Having your toilet cubicle tipped over and tent accidentally set on fire happens elsewhere.

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The festival is careful to remind guests that, despite the big-name headliners (this year Bloc Party, Kraftwerk and Foals), it’s not just about the music. Strolling around the idyllic grounds (centred around a rowing lake) we stumbled across catwalks on the water, libraries in the woods, adult-sized helter skelters, flying dancers and a troupe of topless chefs.

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After a Friday of music, we filled Saturday yo-yoing between the comedy (Dylan Moran was ace) and literary tents, changing course only once to see a cookery class in The Kitchen Tent. Curated by sprightly chef and food writer Gizzi Erskine, we enjoyed learning how to ripen an avocado faster, among other things.

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The evening was our designated blow out. Grey Goose cocktails and Alt-J in the Radio 6 Music tent seemed to marry well. The evening setting, under a packed canopy, created a vivid and intoxicating show. Their set was the busiest the tent has ever been.

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The morning after Bobby Womack was just the tonic, with his mix of lounge funk and preacher soul. We especially enjoyed his inter-song education on how to treat a woman right: ‘If you don’t, someone else will… Believe me, I know.’

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Unlike other more corporate-friendly festivals, there is no formal VIP/hospitality area. But it is possible to glamp. Boutique camping from Yurtel comes with a bar, restaurant and chill out space. Or there ‘s the Podpad area, which has ‘bellepads’ for up to six guests, with 24-hour security. Like I said, comfortable festivaling.

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Best bit: I want to say sitting in the sun eating a heroic mac and cheese, but you can do that anywhere. Water Dance – a special Latitude commission from Studio Festi – which saw aerial acrobatics, giant swans and luminous globes glide over the moonlit lake, was otherworldly.

Room for improvement: Perhaps selfishly, we craved entertainment beyond the event’s 3am curfew. One thing is for certain, though: there needs to be more toilets.

Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk


More pictures...

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