Gallery: ‘There’s so much for children to do’ – why the kids are alright at Latitude Festival
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Latitude festival has become as famed for its family-friendly atmosphere as it has for its music, theatre and comedy.
But it doesn’t just accommodate children, it actively welcomes and encourages them to join in with the whole experience.
The kids’ arena this year was bigger than ever, with activities from pond dipping to sticker art to face painting.
And more than just something to keep children occupied while the grown-ups stake out the main stage, it is a draw in its own right.
Since the very first festival, the kids’ arena has been organised by Sharon Reuben, and it has grown and evolved enormously since then.
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“For the first festival we didn’t even have a kids’ arena planned until about five weeks before,” she said.
“We had so little time to organise it but we had a good feeling about it straight away.
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“I put my heart and soul into the arena, I spend time talking to parents and kids.
“You just want people to have a wonderful time.
“They are a huge part of what makes the festival special.”
The kids’ arena is now four times larger than it was when the festival started 10 years ago.
And for the first time this year, local schools were invited to spend an educational day at the festival on Friday, with a programme tailored around the curriculum.
Almost 400 children took part, and had a go at beat boxing, came up with some creative writing and watched theatre performances.
And Ms Reuben said that was the future for the festival.
“It was just lovely,” she said. “Schools are already saying they’re keen to come back next year and that’s a big part of the future of Latitude for me, getting the local community in here.”
Helen Haynes, from Wymondham, brought her son Luke, 16 months, to Latitude.
She said: “There’s just so much for children to do. You would never take a child somewhere like Reading, they don’t have this kind of atmosphere.
“The kids’ arena just gets bigger every year.”
Luke was kept entertained by Suffolk Libraries, who brought a teddy bears’ picnic to the arena, along with books for children to read.
Library manager Charlotte Clark, who has been running the stand every year of the festival said: “The first year it was a lot of local people but it’s just grown from there.
“We’re so lucky that 10 years on we’re still here!
“We bring our withdrawn stock so kids can come, take a book and read it either here, or back in their tents and then, if they want to keep it they can keep it.
“It’s brilliant and we feel so privileged to be involved in a national event. We get to meet families from all over the country.”
And when the helter skelters, craft activities and theatre workshops get too much, there’s a family chill-out zone, run by Southwold Youth Club the Loft.
It offered soft play, mats, ball pits and baby changing facilities.
A group of 16 teenagers from the Loft were involved in the running of the tent, getting work experience and building self esteem, overseen by Keith Meldrum.
He said: “Festivals are quite a challenge for parents of young children, and since the very first year we’ve been running something like this, but it’s much bigger now, although the principle is the same.
“We provide a sheltered space with safe toys and we just support parents by doing anything we can think of to meet the needs of families.”
And older children aren’t forgotten either, with the festival’s Inbetweeners Teen area.
It is a special space in the woodlands for children aged 12 and over with fashion and technology workshops and wildlife survival courses among other things.
But Latitude’s family draw reaches well beyond the areas specifically set aside for children.
At any given time there were countless families sitting on a picnic blanket at the back of the Obelisk Arena, or children sitting on a parent’s shoulders to catch a better view of a dance performance at the stage on the lake.
It is a part of Latitude’s unique draw, and something Ms Reuben said she’s very proud of.