Latitude declared a 'phenomenal' success

ORGANISERS hailed this year's Latitude Festival as "phenomenal" as the event came to a close last night.

Jonathan Barnes

ORGANISERS hailed this year's Latitude Festival as "phenomenal" as the event came to a close last night.

The four-day festival, at Henham Park, near Southwold, offered up a feast of music, comedy, literature, film, dance and theatre.

Up to 25,000 people every day lapped up the entertainment on offer, as the festival completed its fourth run.


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Melvin Benn, managing director of event organiser Festival Republic, said this year's Latitude had been a resounding success.

"It has been phenomenal - a very, very special weekend," he said.

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"Latitude continues to grow, not necessarily in size but in stature.

"It has developed a unique name for itself. It doesn't need to compare itself to Glastonbury or any other festival - it's different, more unique.

"Musically, we are continuing to push boundaries and we putting on real heavyweights of culture.

"We are already one of the music industry's favourite festivals and, for the arts, I think we are challenging what the Edinburgh Fringe Festival does."

Mr Benn said crime and arrests at the site had been down on the previous year.

There was everything from Swan Lake to Scrabble for people to enjoy and get involved in across the festival site over the weekend.

Yesterday's highlights included the first full-length solo performance from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, who started things off on the Obelisk Arena at midday, which has become known as the "fourth headline slot".

He treated a rapt audience to stunning versions of songs from his solo record The Eraser and reworkings of Radiohead favourites, plus a couple of new tracks.

There were some huge downpours in the afternoon - on the only day it was supposed NOT to rain - before the crowd dried off to enjoy top rock acts Editors and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds rounding off the music stages.

Pop icon Grace Jones provided the headlining turn on Saturday night, arriving on stage 15 minutes late, apparently because she demanded a different colour of napkin. However, she turned in a stunning set, notable for its numerous costume changes and a striking light show.

Organisers had to cut her off when she went past curfew time, much to her disgust.

The day had earlier seen great performances from indie-rockers Doves and chart-topping popster Mika, who was making his return to live action after two years away.

On the outer stages, a stellar cast of comedians, including Jo Brand and Mark Thomas, writers and poets drew in the crowds, while live theatre and dance also pulled in large audiences, and the children's area was a frenzy of activity.

For those who wanted a quiet life, the beautiful surroundings of Henham Park provided the perfect backdrop to a weekend that had everything.

And Mr Benn added that planning was already under way for next year. "When I walk around, I don't think 'this is great'," he said. "I think about how I can make it better."

FESTIVAL boss Melvin Benn said it was "very sweet" that former cabinet minister Geoff Hoon defied his Latitude "ban".

Stories circulated earlier this year that Mr Hoon had been banned from the event because of his decision, in his former job as Transport Secretary, to give the go-ahead to a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

However, Mr Benn said he was pleased the MP, who has a home nearby and has been a regular Latitude visitor in previous years, had turned up again this year.

"I never banned him, but I did say it may not be appropriate for him to attend after making that decision, given that we are an environmentally-friendly festival," said Mr Benn.

"But it was very sweet that he came along. We also had (Culture Secretary) Ben Bradshaw here taking part in a debate and I think it shows how well regarded the festival is."

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