Latitude: Why Latitude can be a real alternative to a family holiday
By rights they should have been in bed hours ago, but here they are, shaking their tiny hips to Lily Allen. They’ve already danced through pretty much everything the Obelisk stage could throw at them – from Billy Bragg to Kelis and have been utterly entranced by some of the UK’s most exciting performance poets and writers.
It’s the first time we’ve taken the kids to a festival. But with the mounting costs of family holidays we decided to swap a traditional bucket and spade break with something a bit different – something we would all enjoy.
After all, what other holidays can compete with such a broad cultural offer for both children and adults. A case of red coats vs Ryksopp.
That’s not to say it was an easy decision. The last time I went to a festival all the toilets got pushed over and set on fire. Admittedly, it seemed funny then, but now with a three-year-old and a five-year-old, the idea of flying cans of beer, burgers like owl pellets and late night thrash metal has lost some of its unsophisticated charm.
Indeed, despite early bravado and following numerous raised eyebrows, we even upgraded our tent to a hired campervan and splashed out on tickets to posh toilets (something I would recommend to anyone, even though the toilets in the family camping area were some of the cleanest festival loos I’ve seen).
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But Latitude is a mile away from the apocalyptic festivals of yesterdays and is, as it approaches its tenth anniversary, one of the pioneers of the true family festival.
The children’s area in the Henham Park site is extensive and includes its own programming and a massive range of activities. Those wanting a break from the music can enjoy pond dipping or bug hunting with Suffolk Wildlife Trust, whittling, craft sessions, a helter skelter that seemed to attract a number of ‘bigger children’ and nightly bedtime stories.
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And, it’s not just the cultural offer that is strong. The food is spectacular and reasonably priced, featuring oyster bars, vegetarian and vegan fare alongside a fully-fledged lakeside restaurant – complete with candelabras.
The real appeal of Latitude though is its inclusive atmosphere. Children are not restricted to a single area. Whether it is an entrancing lakeside dance performance by Sadler’s Wells or a woodland film screening, there is an acceptance that this is an event for everyone. In fact, one of the nice surprises about Latitude was not just the number of youngsters and families, but the number of grandparents and older couples.
Yes, as a parent this festival was very different from the carefree experiences of my youth, but rarely has growing up been this much fun.