Latitude: County helps inspire festival founder

Latitude Festival organiser Melvin Benn

Latitude Festival organiser Melvin Benn - Credit: Ashley Pickering

LATITUDE founder Melvin Benn says the festival’s Suffolk setting inspires its performers and he is still on the lookout for local acts to add to the bill.

Mr Benn was speaking at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios in London after revealing the line-up live on Steve Lamacq’s 6 Music radio show.

He said Suffolk people felt “pride” in the annual event, which is now in its eighth year, and a sense of “ownership” of the festival.

He said: “With Latitude, we created a festival in the area that wasn’t there; the area wasn’t previously thought of as a sort of ‘festival area’ in a way, and I looked around for a long time at where to put the festival and eventually came across Henham Park and it was perfect for it.

“It was perfect for it both in its location of the park and setting of the park but actually also in the atmosphere of the area - I know that might sound daft but somehow if I had a heavy metal festival at Henham Park it wouldn’t sit right. Latitude Festival sits right because the area feels as though it embraces it and I feed off the area - there’s no question I feed off the area.

“When you think of places like Aldeburgh and what Aldeburgh brings to it and of course it’s well known the amount of playwrights and film people who live in the area. It seems to feed off it; it seems to work.”

Mr Benn also said that following on from the breakthrough set from Suffolk star Ed Sheeran two years ago and regular involvement from Aldeburgh Music and Dance East, he was always looking for East Anglian acts to add to the bill.

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He added: “There’s one or two locals we’re hoping to sign up. With Ed, we didn’t confirm with him until probably two months before the festival but he was somebody we were talking to for a period before then. The local scene is important to us but it has to be the right act - and Ed, of course, was. I think what the festival does is it spurs on youngsters to have that aspiration of being able to play the festival and that has to be good for the area as well.

“I absolutely adore walking around the site - I don’t spend my time talking to the artists backstage and drinking champagne, no, there is no question that there is a local feel to it and there’s no question that I have developed a whole number of friends in the area that actually have become friends from going to the festival. The most articulate letters that I get about the festival are from people within the Suffolk area that feel a certain pride about the festival and certain ownership of the festival too and that’s terrific and you definitely hear it and feel that it’s a festival for people that are local.

“A lot of the comedians, even if they’re not performing, they come down for the weekend. We have a performers’ campsite and it’s a place where they all get together for the weekend and bring their kids and have a laugh, obviously because they’re comedians, but it’s a place where they can bring their kids and perform and have a great weekend away and the amount of them that then spend the day and go down to Southwold or Walberswick is really quite considerable - one of the attractions of the festival is the location, and it’s where people want to come.”

It has also been confirmed that 6 Music will be a key partner in this year’s festival, with the second stage rebranded as the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage and several live broadcasts coming from the site over the weekend.

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