Help to keep the kids entertained at this year’s Latitude Festival

Fun for youngsters at this year's Latitude Festival. Photo: Dan Medhurst

Fun for youngsters at this year's Latitude Festival. Photo: Dan Medhurst - Credit: Archant

Latitude Festival isn’t just for grown-ups. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage talks to kids and family programmer Sharon Reuben.

There are activities for all ages. Photo: Marc Sethi

There are activities for all ages. Photo: Marc Sethi - Credit: Archant

Children never want to leave and parents wish they could stay at the Kids Area and Inbetweeners Teen Area. Listening to Sharon struggle to pick out highlights of what’s essentially a mini-Latitude, I get why.

The first, arranged around the banks of the central Latitude lake, features everything from pond dipping and star gazing to exciting science experiments, live theatre and comedy alongside workshops with West End performers. The second has everything from music, media, fashion and technology workshops to wildlife survival skills and assault courses suspended from the trees.

Then there’s the Enchanted Garden in the family campsite, packed with activities, workshops, live music and sports all weekend long. It’s the expansion of this that Sharon’s most excited about.

“Most of our activities there are on the Saturday and Sunday... We’ve taken some activities that are always very popular in the teen area and put them into the family campsite so some of the kids who are just too young for the teen area who are always trying to sneak in, telling us they’re 13 when we know they’re 10; can screen-print T-shirts, enjoy iPad animation.

The Greenpeace area is always popular. Photo: Marc Sethi

The Greenpeace area is always popular. Photo: Marc Sethi - Credit: Archant

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“There’s a lot of other stuff going on in the Enchanted Garden this year. The Sunday morning social is exciting because Bo Nanafana bring their David Bowie-themed kids disco called Let the Children Boogie with Ziggy Stardust make-up and lots of space-themed activities. We’ve got DJs, live music from The Gents who will just have finished supporting Coldplay at Wembley, comedian Stuart Goldsmith; we’re very lucky to have him.

“We’ve got the Museum of London coming with its archaeology project The Big Dig, showing kids how you do a dig. Then they’ve got real objects from the museum, some of its ancient Roman pieces so we’re very honoured to have that.”

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Giving younger festival-goers something to do isn’t an add-on, Sharon stresses. It’s an integral part of their planning.

“Seeing the family campsite, the facilities there, expand every year; Melvin (Benn, the festival founder) addressing the traffic issues to make the whole event flow more smoothly because if you’ve got kids you definitely don’t want to be stuck in traffic... I feel very privileged so many families come back year after year, that’s really special to me.

Comedian Stuart Goldsmith will also be performing

Comedian Stuart Goldsmith will also be performing - Credit: Archant

“Schools Day was very much a reaction to the fact a lot of local children don’t get to come to the festival and we really want them to feel this is for their community... I have a good relationship with a very nice lady from Suffolk County Council’s education team and I remember her saying to me two years ago ‘you know, some schools are at risk from having drama cut from their curriculum because they can’t access theatre’.

“I think that’s a travesty anywhere in the country, I don’t want any primary school child to get to secondary school without having seen a play or heard a poet, that would be terrible. But if we’ve got a festival like this... We try to make this a big focus for them.

“What’s incredibly important to me is that local kids see the opportunities to have a career in the arts - whether it’s as a musician, photographer, painter or maybe they want to work a technical team. Latitude has all that, it shows you all those possibilities and then from Schools Day up into the Inbetweeners Area we really try to get kids to connect with those possibilities.”

Sharon’s already seeing it happen. Musical duo Let’s Eat Grandma play the Sunrise Arena tonight. They started on the little teens stage a year or two ago, not even big enough to make the list of official stages, playing to 40-50 people sitting on logs.

“That’s a big thing for local kids. They all knew their friends were playing this funny little teen stage and it’s a big deal now to find yourself on the posters, on the publicity; it’s a real achievement.”

For many young visitors, it may be their first festival experience too.

“I’d say probably 85% of those children that came last year to Schools Day had never been to the festival which I was amazed at... It was like they were looking at another world and it really just said everything to me about why we do it and why we want it to be so good. These aren’t experiences that kids will forget.”

Talking of making memories, she’s hard-pressed to limit her recommendations; although Goldsmith and Bo Nanafana’s Bowie disco feature.

“The second one is the Greenpeace area in the Inbetweeners Area. You can’t see anything from the outside if you just walk past. If you walk through the cabin, all the trees are covered in climbing nets and there’s a zip-line and it’ so exciting. That’s a great thing for first-timers... You have to explore, that’s the trick at Latitude, you won’t find anything unless you do.”

Sharon’s final pick is the new science tent.

“You’re going to think I sound like a teacher but it’s all different aspects of science that kids are just going to go crazy about. One of them is the science of music, teaching them how to make electronic music and looking at the science of sound.

“There is something in there to do with DNA so there’s a fake crime scene where we have to solve a little fake murder,” she laughs. “There’s a dummy on the floor... It’s not as gruesome as it sounds.

“There’s another experiment in there that’s like a giant operation game called splat anatomy, that’s probably all I need to say about that and the fourth activity is all about the power of plants, making electricity with lemons.... Who wouldn’t want to have a go at that,” she laughs.

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