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Latitude festival pulls in crowds

PUBLISHED: 10:41 20 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:27 03 July 2010

THE fourth Latitude Festival is over, and in many ways it was the best yet. It pushed eclecticism further than ever before. The guilty pleasure of The Pretenders and Chas 'n' Dave, the lazy, soulful rock of Spiritualized and unexpected but strangely appealing 80s revivals from The Pet Shop Boys and Grace Jones ran alongside some of the best new acts of the year.

THE fourth Latitude Festival is over, and in many ways it was the best yet. It pushed eclecticism further than ever before. The guilty pleasure of The Pretenders and Chas 'n' Dave, the lazy, soulful rock of Spiritualized and unexpected but strangely appealing 80s revivals from The Pet Shop Boys and Grace Jones ran alongside some of the best new acts of the year.

The main Obelisk Arena was where most of the biggest names were to be found, but for many the highlight of the weekend was hidden away on one of the numerous more intimate spots.

Passion Pit in the Sunrise Arena was an example of how much can change between booking and hosting a band. In the months since they were placed in the tiny Sunrise Arena they have found huge success, more than can fit in the sloping marquee by the river.

The tent was full ten minutes before the set was due to begin, and by the first song the crowd was spilling outside, but clambering to get closer. At least three people were carried out due to the heat, and crowd surfers too numerous to count were tumbled towards the stage. If Passion Pit plays this festival again they will have to graduate to somewhere more spacious.

Another, more sedate highlight was Radiohead's Thom Yorke, a welcome but late-announced act. He was first to play on the main stage on Sunday and attracted a bigger crowd than the traditionally subdued slot usually draws. It takes a special act to wake a festival crowd that early, but thousands set their alarms for it.

During the set it felt as though the rest of the site must have been a ghost town, but despite the crush, the crowd were more attentive than any other over the three days.

“It was absolutely fantastic, it was the most amazing thing,” said Anne Connor, 44, who had travelled from Cambridge to see this set. “It was out of this world, I don't think anything's going to top that.”

As the advertising tells us, Latitude is more than just a music festival, and true to its word there was far more to see if you dragged yourself from the main stages.

Simon Armitage in the poetry tent brought in a huge crowd, as did the rare opportunity of seeing Vivienne Westwood in the Literary Arena.

The theatre stage was a wonderful diversion, with its small stage surrounded on all four sides by bleachers that were full into the small hours. On the other side of the lake there were a handful of tiny attractions that ran far past most could stay awake, with puppet shows, film projections and chaotic bands roaming through the trees as they played. Even the lake sandwiched between became a stage. Music of the Spheres was one to catch, a 40ft inflatable ball that floated in from the distance with a flautist suspended inside. Everywhere you explored there was more to see.

It is these hidden surprises that make Latitude what it is.

Even the weather mostly behaved itself, except for the occasional shower and the terrifying storm that hit early arrivals on Thursday night.

This year's event certainly felt busier than last year, but festival director Melvin Benn dismissed the idea, speaking from a caravan behind the Uncut Arena.

“Actually, we've sold about 50 tickets less than last year. I'm choosing not to grow it. It's very easy to fast-grow something, and suddenly it's something it wasn't,” he said. “It's going to be the same size next year.”

He remained tight-lipped about next year's line-up, but admitted that negotiations were already taking place. One thing that is sure is that Latitude will remain a fixture on the East Anglia calendar.

“I think it works really well where it is, somehow it fits the area. I feel comfortable and at home. I think we add to the area rather than detracting from it.”

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