Latitude 2016 - Festival Goers Descend On A Sunny Henham Park

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The sun was shining on Henham Park this weekend for the 11th Edition of Latitude Festival, the UK’s finest multi-arts festival, celebrating the very best in music, comedy, theatre, dance, film, poetry, literature, cabaret, science and art.

With spectacular headline sets from The Maccabees, The National and New Order, the weekend was packed with a host of extraordinary performances.

Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn said, “I didn’t think it was possible to top last year, but here we are rounding up the 11th year of Latitude, and I couldn’t be prouder of the festival. We were blessed with a weekend of glorious sunshine and unforgettable performances. The Maccabees were incredible as a debut headliner, The National did the impossible in topping their previous headline performance, and New Order put on the most spectacular show. Some of the greatest names in music, arts, theatre, comedy and literature came together yet again. Latitude Festival has cemented itself as an unparalleled multicultural celebration.”

On Thursday, the stunning theatre line up opened with an astonishing performance from Australia’s most acclaimed circus company C!RCA, who treated the Latitude audience to the UK premiere of Landscape with Monsters. Sadler’s Wells; the UK’s leading dance house, returned to the Waterfront Stage for a ninth year, launching their programme with a performance by Hofesh Shechter’s Company from tHe bAD – showcasing Shechter’s choreography at its most energetic. In The Little House, festival goers were transported back in time by Opera North, with a bandstand of mysterious musicians performing a four hour whirl of European music, from ferocious Transylvanian fiddle playing, to Janacek and Brahms.

This year’s festival was full of surprise music performance duets. On Friday, France’s next biggest export Christine and the Queens was joined onstage by Perfume Genius, the Seattle based soloist for poignant track Jonathan, moving the BBC 6 Music stage crowd to tears. Saturday night’s headliners The National were joined onstage by Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry, for a special performance of I Need My Girl, from The National's most recent album, 2013's Trouble Will Find Me. On Sunday, Ed Sheeran made a return to the festival - following his surprise set last year – joining Foy Vance; the Northern Irish singer-songwriter signed to his label Gingerbread Man Records, on the BBC 6 Music Stage. Sheeran joined Vance on guitar and vocals for Vance’s song Guiding Light, the finale of his 35-minute set, lifted from his 2013 album Joy of Nothing.

Known for giving unparalleled British talent their first headline festival slot, from Florence and the Machine and Foals to last year’s headliners alt-J, the chalice was this year passed to The Maccabees, who stormed the Obelisk Arena on Friday night, delivering a stunning, delicate set, drawing on their 2015 number one album Marks to Prove It and classics like Precious Time and the confetti finale for Something Like Happiness.

Throughout Friday, the name you could hear echoing around the site was that of 28-year-old French singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier, known as Christine and the Queens. With crowds spilling out of the BBC 6 Music Stage on Friday afternoon, Letissier brought her sophisticated synth-pop and slick choreography to Henham Park, with current single Tilted receiving a minute-long ovation from the capacity crowd. Grimes continued the biggest tour of her career as she brought her inimitable alt-pop mastery to her BBC 6 Music Stage headline slot.  Further stand out Friday performances brought crowds to the Obelisk Stage when crooner Father John Misty played a set fit with extravagant dancing and a crowd sing-along with I Love You Honeybear, while Slaves caused pandemonium on the BBC 6 Music Stage and Loyle Carner, The Big Moon, Estrons, JONES and Babeheaven drew massive crowds to the Huw Stephens-curated Lake Stage, cementing their status as ones to watch for the future. The music continued long into the night at the Sunrise Arena, with Mike Skinner and Murkage present Tonga, and Artful Dodger keeping the vibes high and capacity crowd dancing well into Saturday morning.  

On Friday, Latitude’s arts stages came alive with Russell Howard, Al Murray and Katherine Ryan entertaining the crowds in the Comedy Arena, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in the Literary Arena, featuring the 2016 winner Lisa McInerney in conversation with novelist and Prize co-founder Kate Mosse. The Wellcome Trust Hub enlightened everyone with a variety of incredible discussions, debates and performances this year, including a look into the Science of The Selfie, The Sociology & Psychology Of Fun, and the Science of Snogging, where Rosie Wilby and Amie Taylor examined the science, history and anthropology behind kissing.

In the Theatre Arena, Graeae had the audience cheering and celebrating Ian Dury & the Blockheads’ greatest hits in Reasons to be Cheerful; Improbable and Blind Summit presented an improvised puppetry performance like no other in Animo; and Svalbard revelled in the absurdities of life in All Genius All Idiot, blending contemporary circus, theatre, physical comedy and live music. There was a world of woodland imagination in the Faraway Forest with live art, installations and performances including Glen Neath and David Rosenberg’s Séance, which took place in an intimate venue in absolute darkness.

On Saturday, The National performed a rousing headline set in the Obelisk Arena, becoming the only band to headline the festival twice following their bill-topping performance in 2011. “We feel so privileged to be here again” said vocalist Matt Berninger from the stage as the band previewed four new songs, before leading the crowd in an acoustic rendition of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.

The National’s set was the perfect juxtaposition between BBC 6 Music Stage headliners Soulwax, the 2 Many DJ’s remix veterans who wowed the audience with three powerful drummers and a thrilling light show to end the day.  Chvrches preceded The National with an energetic set against the famous Latitude sunset on the main stage, the Scottish trio returning to Latitude having previously played the Sunrise Arena in 2013. Daughter and John Grant drew in huge crowds to the Obelisk Arena, while Pumarosa, Rat Boy and Drones Club put a marker down for new British music, and SOPHIE, Gold Panda and David Rodigan had Latitude moving in the Sunrise Arena.

On Saturday, an enormous crowd gathered at the Film & Music Arena for Louis Theroux in conversation with Adam Buxton; a real highlight that had the whole festival talking. Also in Film & Music, The Festival Voices: Ecstasies Within, greeted the morning with a fusion of electronica with New York-based composer Tarik O'Regan's exhilarating work The Ecstasies Above, presented by the National Portrait Gallery's Gregory Batsleer, Louis Hartshorn of the Arts Theatre, London and Latitude’s own Arts Curator Tania Harrison.

In performances that touched upon this year’s theme Love Thy Neighbour, Gob Squad presented Super Night Shot, where the Latitude audience became co-stars in a movie that celebrated unplanned meetings with strangers, plus Lyric, GDIF, Watford Palace Theatre and Latitude presented Hikapee in Pandora’s Playground – a new, daring outdoor circus piece exploring what it is to create a ‘home’.

The Poetry Arena drew in the crowds on Saturday with the likes of Henry Normal, Hollie McNish and Latitude regular Luke Wright on stage, plus the hugely likeable Rob Auton who brought his new work The Sleep Show. There was an afternoon of dance on the Waterfront including performances from the New English Ballet Theatre and Sadler’s Wells’ GOGO Penguin Lynne Page and Botis Seva and his company Far From the Norm performing H.O.H. – a combination of hip hop, physical theatre and contemporary dance the centring on the nation’s favourite sport, football.

One of Britain’s all-time greatest bands, New Order, gave Latitude 2016 a validatory send-off, with a set spanning 35 years, all the way from their origins as Joy Division, through to the dancefloor classic Blue Monday and up to last year’s acclaimed Music Complete.

Sunday began with a surprise performance by 100 Voices Of Gospel Choir opening the Obelisk Arena. The choir - drawn from 25 different coun­tries and many different religious faiths - captivated the midday crowd with a rousing set of gospel classics. The Arena hosted one of its strongest Sunday line ups with Michael Kiwanuka - on the weekend his acclaimed new record Love & Hate was released - Laura Mvula, and The Lumineers playing hit after hit for the sun-baked afternoon crowd. Elsewhere Iceland’s Of Monsters And Men stepped up to headline status on the BBC 6 Music Stage, drawing a huge crowd with their glacial and brooding folk-pop, and captivating performances by two of Scandinavia’s most acclaimed breakthrough artists, Norway’s dark electro-pop princess Aurora and Danish pop siren MØ, amongst others. New Bella Union signing Holly Macve wowed crowds twice on Sunday, with performances on both the Sunrise Arena and Solas, whilst DIY Presents The Alcove rounded off three days of the best in new and breakthrough artists with Skinny Girl Diet, The Magic Gang and Kero Kero Bonito packing the tent.

On Sunday, the Cabaret Arena welcomed legendary singer, comic and compere Dusty Limits, who along with his long term collaborator Michael Roulston, performed songs from their highly anticipated new album Grin, plus the hugely popular Dame Nature (Tim Bell) and Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows entertained the crowd late into the night. David O’Doherty, Mark Watson, Nish Kumar and the ever-popular Bill Bailey performed to a full house to round off this year’s stellar Comedy Arena line up.

The Film & Music Arena came alive with a riveting performance from Jane Horrocks and the If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me Band, plus there was a truly memorable performance from Adam Green as he performed the shimmering soundtrack to Aladdin; a hyper-sensory, poetic and humorously subversive film of the classic Arabian Nights tale. And finally, in what was a real highlight of this year’s Theatre Arena programme, the multi-award winning Theatre Ad Infinitum presented Bucket List, the powerful story of one Mexican orphan's fight against injustice, to a full house.

With the festival enjoying glorious weather over the weekend, festival goers were queueing down the riverbank to enjoy a dip in Latitude’s famous lake, a spa treatment to relax and unwind in the Solas area, or a refreshing cocktail in Blixen’s pop-up restaurant.  

There was more for families, kids and teens than ever before this year, with a huge array of activities to help families create happy memories to last all year. The Kids Area entertained children all day and into the night, with pond dipping, star gazing, fire shows, woodland crafts, science experiments plus theatre, comedy, music and more. Teenagers were in their element in The Inbetweener’s Teen Area, enjoying music, media and fashion workshops or tackling survival skills in the treetops, and The Enchanted Garden proved to be a hugely popular addition to this year’s Family Campsite, particularly The Bo Nanafana Sunday Social, a Bowie tribute with a Let the Children Boogie space-themed disco.

As the sun sets on this year’s festival, sights are already set on 2017 when Latitude will return to Henham Park in July for its 12th Edition.

Published on 20 July 2016 by Ben Robinson

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