The perfect attitude for Latitude

They went, they saw, some even bought the T-shirt. After all, no true festival would be complete without a merchandise stand and the inaugral Latitude Festival at Henham Park, near Southwold, turned out to have all the elements required for a great outdoor gathering.

They went, they saw, some even bought the T-shirt. After all, no true festival would be complete without a merchandise stand and the inaugral Latitude Festival at Henham Park, near Southwold, turned out to have all the elements required for a great outdoor gathering.

Needless to say, music was a key component with Snow Patrol filling the Obelisk Arena on Friday night followed by US punk chick Patti Smith and then Antony and the Johnsons on Saturday night.

But unlike pure music festivals, Latitude offered even more. Literary buffs could relax on large cushions in both the the poetry and literature tents; alternative afficionados could revel in the spirited ambiance of the cabaret tent where dancers and magicians took turns; and crowd-pleasing comedians filled the comedy arena which, when the sun went down, turned into a giant 70s and 80s disco haven.

Organisers estimated that around 15,000 people had attended the three-day event. Unlike the larger, established festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds and V, Latitude certainly wasn't over-crowded but by no means was it sparsely populated. In fact, there were enough people to make it into a party atmosphere while still maintaining space to move and get to the toilets without enduring an horrendous, hour-long wait.


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A large number of families had turned out for the weekend, creating an even more friendly, laid-back environment. The Kids Arena, with workshops, face painting and more, kept little ones amused and plenty of them were soon seen running around wearing colourful tutus and sparkly wings from the FairyLove stall.

At times, the festival felt like a combination of V, with its four main music stages, and more alternative gatherings what with the flower-patterned toilet cubicles, picnic benches and solar-powered sleeping huts, as well as a good selection of vegan and vegetarian foods, rather than just your usual festival fayre of cheap meat in a bun (though, of course, that was on offer too).

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Henham Park turned out to be a perfect location too, with its varied landscape that had been cleverly integrated into the festival. A stroll down through the lamplit woods full of pine trees lead to the lake, where candles floated like lily pads and a make-shift bridge was lined with wild grass and fairy lights. Deckchairs surrounded the water's edge, creating a chillout area, and gondola rides were also on offer.

At night, the ancient trees were flood-lit in blue and green, giving them monumental status among the varied stages and stalls. And the nights were just as lively as the days with DJs playing into the early hours in the woods, and raunchy cabaret acts keeping eyes wide open.

Another element that made Latitude such a success was the elements themselves. The scorching sun, which got hotter as the weekend wore on, put everyone into festival spirit.

What also helped create a laid-back, happy vibe was the helpful and friendly events staff, and, thankfully, a distinct lack of pretentious PR people or celebrity cling-ons (i.e the fashion pack just there to see and be seen that you get as the larger festivals). So in other words, it was Latitude without the attitude.

However, if the festival continues to grow it will no doubt attract more and more big name acts and, therefore, media attention, which will take away from the intimate environment.

But for a first attempt, I could not find fault with any part of the festival and congratulations should go to all the organisers, as well as Hektor Rous, manager of the estate, on such a success. The main hardship was deciding what to see at any one time from the multitude of artists: stand-up poetry, DJs, book readings, plays, cabaret, music, comedy and more. I can only hope the Latitude Festival makes a return next year. The only thing that can't be guaranteed though, is replicating such perfect weather.

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