Latitude founder Melvin Benn tells Suffolk Chamber members of festival’s success

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, organiser of the Latitude Festival at Henham Pa

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, organiser of the Latitude Festival at Henham Park, near Southwold, speakiing at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce networking lunch. - Credit: Archant

Business leaders from across Suffolk were given an insight in the success of the multi-arts Latitude festival at a networking event hosted by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, which stages Latitude at Henham Park, near Southwold, each summer, was guest speaker at the lunch event, held at Trinity Park, Ipswich, and sponsored by creative design agency White Space, which is based in the town.

As the event promoter behind some of the UK and Europe’s most well-known music festivals, including the twin Reading and Leeds festivals and Electric Picnic, Melvin Benn shared with the audience of more than 100 local business leaders why he decided to create the family-friendly Latitude event in the grounds of Suffolk’s Henham Park Estate.

He said that, wanting something more than just a traditional music festival (he likened Latitude more to the culture pages of a Sunday broadsheet), he set out to create a festival which offered a choice of all kinds of popular culture, including theatre, poetry, literature and ballet.

“As we grow older our tastes widen to include a whole range of cultural interests,” said Mr Benn. “As well as a wide range of music artists, my aim for Latitude Festival was to rewrite the rulebook on what festivals could be.

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“It took us three years to find the right piece of grass, but when I heard about Henham Park I had a hunch that it was right for a new kind of festival, with literature and the arts at the heart of it all.”

Having made a loss on the event in its first year in 2006, Mr Benn ploughed ahead with his vision and achieved break-even five years later and now, with the festival in its 11th year, sees a healthy profit.

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This year’s Latitude Festival takes place on July 14 to 17 and is expected to once again see a sell-out crowd of families, young people and the older generations who, like Mr Benn, still can’t get enough of the festival vibe.

Sarah Howard, president of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said at the networking event: “It is wonderful to hear the story of how Latitude Festival came about, and I am proud that Suffolk continues to host one of the most innovative and varied festivals in Europe.

“Melvin’s story has been both insightful and engaging, and his instinctive and fearless approach to business is an inspiration to us all.”

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