The Sun Sets On Another Year Of Latitude

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Foals’ first ever festival headline set on Sunday at Latitude, complete with a laser display, brought the 2013 event to an ecstatic close with lead singer Yannis declaring “This is a special night for us and there is no one we’d rather spend it with,

The weekend also saw unforgettable headline sets from Kraftwerk 3-D and Bloc Party, soaring temperatures and the invigorating atmosphere of culture, entertainment and ideas that has made Latitude the UK’s favourite multi-arts festival.

The eighth edition of Latitude opened with a joint welcome party from Latitude and BBC Radio 6 Music with DJs Mary Anne Hobbs and Craig Charles on Thursday evening, plus Water Dance, a special Latitude commission from Studio Festi which saw aerial acrobatics, giant swans and luminous globes glide over the moonlit lake. 

As Henham Park basked in a glorious heatwave on Friday, the first full day of the festival climaxed with Bloc Party’s appearance at the Obelisk Arena. The band were introduced by BBC Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq who championed them in their early days after being handed their first demo. Their set, which combined the band’s best-known hits with newer material, was Bloc Party’s first headline appearance at a major festival. Frontman Kele Okereke marked the occasion saying: “We are Bloc Party from London England and we are so proud to be here… Thanks Latitude I knew you wouldn’t let me down.”

Friday’s line-up also saw the return of another major force in British music of the last 20 years in the shape of Texas, who wowed the crowds in the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage with a string of hits, new material and a raw, rousing cover of Tina Turner’s River Deep Mountain High. Latitude’s arts arenas were no less starry, with stand-out appearances from Daniel Kitson, who performed no fewer than six shows over the weekend; Sean Lock had the Comedy Arena packed to the rafters; classical pianist James Rhodes played on the stunning Waterfront Stage and the Film & Music Arena hosted rare live appearances from artist David Shrigley and fashion photographer Tim Walker.

On Saturday, Richard Ashcroft drew a huge crowd for his solo acoustic set, opening with the popular Verve classic, Sonnet, before Mercury Music Prize winners Alt-J set records by drawing the biggest audience ever in attendance at second stage. Meanwhile in the Obelisk Arena anticipation among 35,000 music fans reached fever pitch as Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Hot Chip warmed up the crowd for the eagerly anticipated appearance of Kraftwerk 3-D. Once the crowd had donned their 3D glasses, the progenitors of electronic music pushed boundaries once again with an astounding 3D light show, accompanying a greatest hits set that included Autobahn, a Thunderbirds-influenced airing of We Are The Robots and an updated version of Radioactivity. Humanity’s relationship with machines was also explored earlier in the day at Latitude’s Theatre Arena, where hundreds of festivalgoers queued to see National Theatre Wales’ astounding collaboration with Neon Neon, Praxis Makes Perfect, which saw the audience walk away with a Neon Neon souvenir banknote. In the Comedy Arena, meanwhile, festival goers packed into the tent to catch a glimpse of Dylan Moran.

Sunday at Latitude began in a serene fashion with a classical set on The Waterfront Stage from virtuoso trumpeter Alison Balsom and her accompaniment The English Concert. As Balsom’s Handel and Purcell airs drew to a close, a very different classic was kicking off on the Obelisk Arena in the form of Bobby Womack. The resurgent soul and funk veteran played a blistering set and with so much material to draw on from 50 years of song writing and performing, he was loath to leave the stage, saying: “They say I’ve got five minutes left. I’ve got as long as it takes.” On the BBC Radio 6 Music stage, Laura Mvula continued her year of astounding success with a set which she afterwards said marked “the first time I really felt the whole audience was with me” and both Rudimental and Disclosure drew huge crowds and ensured that Latitude kept dancing throughout the afternoon. The sun kissed day at the festival also featured a very special guest appearance from Eddie Izzard and a fabulous full-length flamenco performance from Roció Molina presented by Sadler’s Wells on the floating Waterfront Stage.

The very best of independent and emerging music was on show at Latitude this year. The BBC Radio 6 Music Stage played host to a series of rare gigs from some of the most respected names in music, with standout sets from Daughter, Calexico, Gaz Coombes, CocoRosie and feted American duo Beach House, who closed the stage on Sunday night. The i Arena played host to a range of artists both new and established including Japandroids, Chvrches, Drenge, SOHN, Tamikrest, Purity Ring and Moon Duo. Meanwhile The Lake Stage and the new Alcove Stage presented a selection of the hottest up and coming acts, with sets from Jagwar Mar, Milo Greene, Sam Smith, Bo Ningen, Mt. Wolf, The 1975, Swim Deep and Young Fathers. 

Throughout the weekend crowds poured into Latitude’s Faraway Forest, where the festival’s theme for 2013 Neuroscience vs. Sex What Defines Me? played out across a series of installations, performances, discussions and specially commissioned theatre. By day Wellcome Trust hosted a series of events chaired by prominent academics and neuroscientists, while on Saturday night the magical woodland setting was transformed into a party environment inspired by Amsterdam and 1970’s New York. 

Latitude’s Comedy Arena continued to draw the cream of UK and international comedy with a line-up that included Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran, Marcus Brigstocke, Nick Helm and The Helmettes and Tim Key. No fewer than three of Britain’s national poets graced the stage of the Poetry Arena in the forms of Carol Ann Duffy, Murray Lachlan Young and Liz Lochhead. Meanwhile the Literary Arena attracted some of the UK’s greatest minds, including Germaine Greer, Matt Haig, Dawn O’Porter and Marcel Theroux.

Another new addition to Latitude that went down a storm among festival audiences was The Kitchen. Curated by chef and food writer Gizzi Erskine, The Kitchen’s combination of cookery demonstrations from star chefs and tongue-in-cheek culinary-themed cabaret drew large crowds of foodies every day and whetted many appetites for the delights of Latitude’s pop-up restaurant, Rotary Bar and Grill. The Tour de Latitude supported by M&S returned for a second year with over 80 riders arriving on Thursday to a gloriously sunny champagne reception and there was even the first wedding ceremony to be held onsite for the happy couple Nadine and Neil, courtesy of Festival Brides.

Commenting on the success of the festival Melvin Benn, founder and creator of Latitude said: 

Every year I feel that it has been the best yet and I have to say this year we’ve done it yet again. Latitude is now well-known as being the festival that gives tomorrow’s superstars their first headline billing and it’s been a pleasure to welcome both Bloc Party and Foals into popular music’s premier league following their astounding sets. Kraftwerk were both sonically and visually spectacular, and it was a privilege to play host to a band who really changed the musical landscape forever. 

“We’re also very proud of Latitude’s record in championing and helping to break new acts. It only took Alt-J 12 months to graduate from The Lake Stage to headlining The BBC Radio 6 Music Stage, so we’re looking forward to seeing how far graduates of The Lake Stage, i Arena and the new Alcove Stage go in the following year.

“I can’t think of a year when Latitude’s multi-arts offering has been in ruder health. Our Comedy line-up was, as always, stellar, and there are few festivals who can boast multiple performances by Daniel Kitson, an appearance from Eddie Izzard, and classical trumpeter Alison Balsom and The English Concert who captivated the crowds gathered on Sunday morning. The calibre of poets and authors on our Literary and Cabaret line-up year in, year out speaks for itself and the breadth and quality array of theatre on offer, particularly from the likes of National Theatre of Wales and Lyric Hammersmith is similarly hard to find anywhere else.

“Over the years, Latitude has also won the reputation as being the festival that explores the defining ideas of our times in playful yet thought-provoking ways. I thought this conceptual approach to the arts programming reached new heights this year with the theme Neuroscience vs. Sex: What Defines Me. To see The Faraway Forest transformed simultaneously into a forum for serious scientific debate and a playground for exploring our shifting identities was a sight to behold.”

And that’s it for another year. The tents have been packed away, the Latitude sheep have washed away their colourful fleece and the woods resound once again to birdsong rather than hit songs. 

Published on 24 July 2013 by Ben Robinson

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