Walking through Henham Park near Southwold on a summer’s day, when the sunlight shimmers on the lake and a breeze rustles through the trees, it’s easy to see why this place was chosen as the home of Latitude Festival.
Almost ten years ago, Festival Republic, a company with ‘festivals in their blood’ decided it was time to set up a music and arts festival in which the surroundings would be as beautiful as the performances on stage, where festivalgoers could indulge in music, comedy, poetry, dance, film and theatre and frolic in fairy-lit woods, where the sounds of the city would be far away and the night skies would be clear and filled with stars. After some searching they found the perfect place, and in 2006 the first ever Latitude Festival went ahead on The Suffolk Coast.
Those first three days and nights saw Snow Patrol, Anthony and the Johnsons, Mogwai, The Zutons, Patti Smith, Paulo Nutini and many more wow crowds with performances on the Obelisk Arena and across the Music Arenas; while on the Arts Stages, comedians Josie Long, Sean Locke and Marcus Brigstocke and poets Luke Wright and Lemn Sissay were among the acts entrancing audiences with their lyrical acrobatics. The inaugural Latitude Festival was also the first time festivalgoers and journalists alike caught sight of Latitude’s now iconic multi-coloured sheep!
Since that first festival eight years ago, Latitude has grown bigger and better, with subsequent line-ups including Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Elbow, Bill Bailey, Jack Dee, Carol Ann Duffy, Andrew Motion, The Royal Shakespeare Company and Sadler’s Wells. Finally in 2013 it was the combination of Foals, Bloc Party, Kraftwerk, Laura Mvula, Daughter, James Blake, Mercury prizewinners Alt-J and a plethora of incredible comedy and arts acts that won Latitude the coveted UK Festival Award for Best Line Up.
Yet despite international acclaim, ever-increasing popularity and bigger crowds, Latitude has never lost the warm atmosphere and quirky charm that makes it unique among UK festivals. Reports from last year’s festival were more or less unanimous: Latitude has something special, and it’s not just the great acts. As last year’s winner of Latitude tickets in the Win of Suffolk Coast Experience competition said:
“Latitude has the most friendly atmosphere that I have ever experienced at a festival, and I will certainly try to go back!”
For more information about this year’s Latitude Festival please visit www.latitudefestival.com
Images (top to bottom) by Danny North and Marc Sethi