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Festival Diary 2016: Latitude Festival

Stellar artistic displays in an utopian setting at Glasto's little brother

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Image: Victor Frankowski
Image: Victor Frankowski

Latitude's eleventh year cements its reputation as the cosier little brother of festival behemoth Glastonbury, offering up bags of hippy fun and flair in its delivery of an outstanding line-up of comedy, music, theatre and arts. Scorching sun saw the iconic lake put to good use by the most diverse festival crowd you're likely to find anywhere this summer - Latitude's demographic is as wide as its selection of entertainment, and older punters rub ankles with children of all ages, making for a family friendly event that isn't bubble wrapped or wooly. First-time headliners The Maccabees opened on the Friday night with electro legends New Order wrapping up the Sunday, and this breadth is emblematic of latitudes all-embracing ethos.

This year's music line-up was repeatedly touted by performers at the festival as one of the best in its history, and it isn't hard to see why. Breakthrough names like Grimes, Soulwax and Of Monsters and Men found themselves heading the second stage and getting a chance to earn their stars, while other lesser known acts who cropped up on swathes of 2015's Best Of lists were also bumped up beyond their typical billing. A particular highlight from this bracket was Father John Misty's main stage set, which set the showman of the moment out as a future line-up topper - the ex-Fleet Fox performs with the sass and spontaneity of a Freddie Mercury or Elvis Presley, and his quick-witted compositions come to dangerously bold life in his hands. Irish rockers Little Green Cars were another highlight for this reviewer at the festival's woodland Sunrise Arena, in a too-short Sunday slot that nevertheless drew a sizeable crowd to take in their superb back catalogue. Chvrches also got the opportunity to leap up to the pre-headline slot on the Saturday ahead of The National's triumphant Latitude return, and also got the chance to flex their muscles as future headliners.

Elsewhere well-placed sets came from seasoned festival names like Beirut, The Lumineers, Squeeze, Frightened Rabbit and Half Moon Run, with the latter two getting strong reactions from the BBC Radio 6 Tent crowd. Likewise, Slaves unleashed their madness on the Tent and brought onboard a body-popping teen from the front row to dance at the front of stage to 'Cheer Up London'.

Image: Carys Lavin
Image: Carys Lavin

Latitude also boasts the largest festival comedy line-up in the UK, and it packs a punch this year with Russell Howard and Bill Bailey pulling out all the stops atop the bill. However as with all stages at Latitude it's the smaller names doing the legwork that often strike the best reactions, and Friday's Chortle Student Comedy Awards is the perfect example. A handful of up and comers likely playing to the biggest audience of their careers rise to the challenge and make for a line-up that consistently pulls and pushes in bold directions - sandwiched in between some more experienced names, with the likes of Reggie Watts and Josh Widdicombe working their magic, these unknowns bring this festival of arts to life in a bold and endearing fashion.

Such is the case in the Theatre Arena and Waterfront Stage, where niche acts get the chance to play to crowds often entirely uninformed of their talents. Paul Merton's Improv Chums was perhaps one of the most recognisable names on the Theatre bill and as such managed to fill out both tent itself and the live big stream screen in the forest to a great reception, however many those who stuck around afterwards soon found themselves absorbed in Action To The Word's startlingly good take on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Likewise the Waterfront Stage, situated in the centre of the Arena, could be found lined by people on bridges and paths, engrossed in a display of choreography initially spared just a passing glance. The raw energy and style of productions like Vamos Cuba!, a narrative piece set in a Havana airport, is capable of quite literally stoping people in their tracks, and it is this multifarious power of the arts that Latitude celebrates so well.

In 2016 the festival continues to grow in stature but thankfully not on size, maintaining its identity as the king of medium sized UK festivals, and the king of arts festivals anywhere.

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