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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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