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Latitude: Art of surprise keeps festival on its toes but what was your highlight?

PUBLISHED: 12:32 21 July 2014

Aerial pic of Latitude Festival 2014 - Mike Page

Aerial pic of Latitude Festival 2014 - Mike Page

Copypright Mike Page, All Rights Reserved Before any use is made of this picture, including dispaly, publication, broadcast, syndication, web or any other form or reproduction, permission must be obtained in writing.

What makes Latitude so continually successful? After three days at the Southwold festival, Andrew Fitchett says this year it had much to do with the festival’s surprises, twists and turns.

Haim at Latitude 2014 - Paul Bayfield Haim at Latitude 2014 - Paul Bayfield

After six years as a Mecca for fans of culture of all kinds, Latitude Festival could be forgiven for taking the safe option.

Great music, theatre and comedy, a blissed-out atmosphere, beautiful surroundings and stands selling hummus and halloumi have all become stock in trade for the festival dubbed the UK’s “most middle class”.

But familiarity breeds contempt. With 35,000 people attending every year, how do you stop them from getting bored?

This year, the organisers decided that the answer is simple. Utilising the art of surprise.

The Latitude Festival 2014 at Henham Park.
The BBC Radio 6 music stage in the distance as people make their way around the festival.

Picture: James Bass The Latitude Festival 2014 at Henham Park. The BBC Radio 6 music stage in the distance as people make their way around the festival. Picture: James Bass

Festival-goers were kept on their toes with shock announcements from the off, with the news that Lily Allen was stepping in for Two Door Cinema Club - who pulled out due to sickness - coming before the festival had even begun.

Allen suffered some social media abuse beforehand, but pulled out a stellar set in the Obelisk Arena on Friday night to prove the doubters wrong.

That was after she stunned fans with a 15-minute impromptu performance on the waterfront stage, joined by her dad, Keith Allen, and two youngest children.

Next, thousands of fans had to rip up their schedule when UK dance act, Rudimental, were announced as the secret act for the main stage on Friday.

Damon Albarn at Latitude 2014 - Paul Bayfield Damon Albarn at Latitude 2014 - Paul Bayfield

It didn’t stop there. First, festival organiser Melvin Benn jetted in with news that Damon Albarn would be joined by a special guest. It turned out to be Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, with the pair putting on a stirring rendition of the Britpop giant’s track, Tender, during Albarn’s headlining Saturday set.

James cancelling their Saturday show on the Obelisk Stage was the next twist, with their set postponed to Sunday lunchtime.

Surprise celebrity sightings – including Emma Watson – had tongues wagging, and the ensemble cast of Sunday afternoon special guests, Atomic Bomb! Who is William Onyeabor, was revealed to contain Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip.

The surprises stopped when it came to British summertime weather. On Friday night, the crowds stopped and marvelled at an incredible sunset which framed Henham Park in shades of pink.

Just 24 hours later, they were staring into the face of a torrential downpour which turned the festival into a mudbath.

That only served to bring out the familiar Latitude spirit, with the crowds surfing giant mudslides and helping each other navigate lagoons of mud which were swallowing up flip-flops by the dozen.

It’s a reaction that Melvin Benn knows only too well. On Friday, he described the festival as feeling like home. For the thousands who return every year, it’s a feeling they can relate to.

After such a thrilling weekend, that’s no surprise at all.

What was your Latitude highlight? Leave a comment below or email us

Comedy, talks, theatre and art suggestions to suit all tastes across the region over the next seven days

In Women’s Week, the New Wolsey Theatre is celebrating the fact that chief executive Sarah Holmes has made The Stage 100 list of most influential theatre figures. Arts editor Andrew Clarke asks what the award means to her and the company

John Bishop’s back with Winging It, his first national tour in three years. Selling out arenas across the UK, extra dates have been added, including several in Ipsswich and Southend. We found out more.

Have you ever wished that you were born early enough to have been part of Bobby Robson’s FA Cup winning side in May 1978? Well you don’t have to jump aboard the TARDIS or fall through a wormhole in time, you can just audition to take part in a new dance-led reconstruction of Ipswich Town’s history-making victory at Wembley.

Dozens of students are reflecting on the success of their latest show at the Ormiston Sudbury Academy.

Get ready for it, Take That musical The Band visits the Ipswich Regent next year.

This is the second take on the Ealing comedy classic I’ve seen in recent months and my favourite.

The Orchard Players invite you on a magical carpet ride to Peking market where street rat Aladdin’s plans to woo Princess Jasmine are interrupted by the evil Abanazer.

The Ipswich Regent and New Wolsey Theatre have plenty to cheer about, with record-breaking crowds buying pantomime tickets.

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