Latitude 2010 Festival, Suffolk, England

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Latitude Festival July 2010 from Devon 21 on Vimeo.

The video is 720p HD and shot on the iPhone 4.
Warning – Contains strong language in the clip from the comedy tent.

This past weekend we took the bus to our first big music festival. Although we usually like to use the campervan to get away from people we thought we should give the festival thing a go. So we joined thirty-five thousand people in the rolling grounds at Henham Park in Suffolk for Latitude.

We chose Latitude as it has a reputation for being a more relaxed and friendly festival. It’s also known for its arts programme and as such, for being quite middle-class and liberal. As Russell Kane called it his stand-up set… Latte-tude.

Thursday 15 July

The arrival at the festival site was a bit of a drag. We were put in a holding pen full of hundreds of campervans and made to wait for two hours for our turn at a ten second process of handing over tickets and getting a wristband in return. On the positive side the predicted rain had turned out to be sunshine and strong breezes, and there were worse places to be stuck. A note to organizers, if you can’t get enough ticket collectors then at least provide more than one Portaloo for those thousand people who’ve had a long journey. The overall quality of the festival facilities is an issue I might as well get out of the way now. They were worse than even the poor level I was expecting. I won’t go in to too much detail but suffice it to say than the rusting wartime era design of an open cesspit would have had the Romans running in horror. For the benefit of the organisers here’s a link to the level of facilities easily available in the 21st century…

After the challenge of pitching our side canopy in the strong wind we wandered down to the arenas and explored. They’re set around a small lake facing the festival’s somewhat iconic standing sign and dyed sheep. You can see how it was in the video so I won’t bore you. What isn’t in the video was the end of the evening up in the woods where we waited an hour for Tom Jones’ midnight gig. In the end we decided that given how tired we were and a technical delay that we’d pass on Tom. I probably shouldn’t admit that we’ve actually seen him live before. But he’s ironically cool now though, right? Apparently thousands of people who had wanted to see him were unable to because of the woods being filled to capacity.

Friday 16 July

Friday was the best day of the festival for us. We started the day with a tour of the cabaret and comedy tents. Russell Kane did a very funny standup set. In the cabaret tent we caught the second half of an excellent double act sketch show, Cardinal Burns. They had several memorable routines including a French potatoe shop and some sleazy mini-cab drivers.

We had lunch outside at the Giant Robot restaurant. It was a bit of an adventure with the strong breeze. One gust of wind sent both of our drinks flying off the table!

In the early evening we headed back down to the arenas for Empire of the Sun followed by Florence and the Machine. The music used on the trip video above is an Empire track. It was good to hear them live though we expect they be better to see in a smaller indoor venue. They needed some lasers and pyrotechnics. Florence however had no problem filling the whole stage and arena. Our fears that she would bellow and screech were unfounded. She was a pleasure to hear and see.

Saturday 17 July

We were in no hurry to get back down to the arenas on Saturday but when we did we were greeted by thousands of toddlers, push-chairs and harrassed looking parents. We thought they must be day visitors or perhaps later arriving campers. Either way it made for a hectic and stressful experience. After standing outside some over filled tents and finding nowhere to enjoy we decided to turn tail back to the van and return later when the day visitors had gone home. It was beautifully quiet in the camping area and we relaxed in the sunshine. We never did make it back down to the arenas as we decided just to chill at the van and try to recover from our festival fatigue.

Sunday 18 July

With another two days of the trip ahead we made the choice to tour the arenas and if nothing grabbed us then we’d either spend the day off site in Southwold or head off home along the coast. We quickly admitted defeat and decided there were lots of useful things we could do at home the next day! It was a beautiful day to tour down the coast of Suffolk and we felt happy to be on the road again. Southwold was our first destination. We motored down to the pier and turned back into town. That was when we heard a scrapping crunch. Mark slammed on the breaks and pulled over to the side of the road. What had we hit?! David lept out of the van to see a Renault Clio reversed out in the middle of the road with its bumper ripped off. Thankfully the van had very little damage. Just some black plastic smeared on the bumper and and tiny chip on the paint. How had it happened? Had we drifted over and caught the side of the car? A passing pedestrian helpfully called out that he had reversed back out towards us as we passed and that was how he ended up close enough for our extended bumper to catch his rear valance and pull it half off. A quick exchange of details later and with our heart rates slowly returning to normal, we found a quiet beachside car-park at the far end of town. It was near the campsite we had stayed at on our previous trips to Southwold and we cooked up some lunch.

The rest of our journey back towards London was thankfully less eventful and just exactly what we like to do. Aldeburgh was a nice late afternoon stop. The run into London had very heavy traffic approaching the M25 but once past it it was simple run down in to our new place in Camden.

Our first mainstream music festival had some great moments, but overall it’s probably not something we’ll rush to repeat. It also brought to mind the problem of the increased popularity of camping, which according to some newspaper articles I’ve read, could be due to young people’s happy experiences camping at festivals such as Latitude. The problem we’ve found is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find campsites in the south of England with plenty of space to relax, or at bank holidays, any space at all. Can books like Cool Camping and the proliferation of festivals be blamed for drawing crowds to the quiet places we discovered for ourselves years back? Whatever the answer, it’s an issue we’ll continue to face, and might only be solved by more trips to continental Europe or the less populated fringes of Britain.

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