News: Latitude Festival gears up for seventh edition

With just four weeks to go before thousands of festival goers descend on Henham Park for the 7th Latitude festival, organisers are hoping that the sun shining down on site as they launch the final line up is a good omen.

For Melvin Benn, founder and creator of Latitude, the seventh anniversary of Latitude already has a good omen. “In a year of anniversaries, especially the Queen’s 60th Anniversary, the seventh anniversary gift is usually a piece of wool, and how appropriate for our special coloured sheep that wool is the anniversary gift for seven years.”

While Benn doubts he will be around for Latitude’s 60th anniversary, the seventh edition looks stronger than ever, with fresh acts announced today to join the existing line up.

Joining an already strong line-up of pianists that includes Lang Lang, who recently wowed crowds at the Diamond Jubilee Concert, Benn announced that the Grammy-nominated Canadian star Chilly Gonzales will be appearing in the Film And Music Arena. The same arena will also see the return of two Latitude favourites, Mark Lamarr with his God’s Jukebox, including Queen of Rockabilly Wanda Jackson returning to Latitude after her appearance on the Obelisk stage in 2011.

Van Dyke Parks may be familiar to most as the man behind the lyrics of The Beach Boy’s masterpiece Smile, but as his first three solo albums are about to be reissued, Parks’ will be joining force with the Britten Sinfonia for a full orchestral career retrospective.

Of course, Latitude has always sold itself as ‘more than a musical festival’, and there is plenty on offer for all the family.

Adding to the already strong arts and theatre line up, Sadler’s Wells return to Latitude to present extracts from their new British Bollywood musical Wah! Wah! Girls, a collaboration with acclaimed Kneehigh and Theatre Royal Stratford East. For fans of new comedy, The Chortle Student Comedy Awards will be showcasing some of the countries brightest new comic talent.

The Inbetweener’s Arena, a section of the festival especially for teenagers returns this year after its successful launch in 2011. Run by Norwich based Culture Works East, the area is key to developing future festivals as Elli Chapman, Artistic Director explains; “It’s important we start to nurture audiences of tomorrow and in The Inbetweeners Arena we work with young festival goers between 13 and 17, giving them a chance to go this is our festival and getting a sense of what they want in the future. “

With so much going on in the arena, it’s perhaps like asking a parent to pick their favourite child but for Chapman there’s one area of the schedule that stands out.

“It would be our fashion wonderland, which has all the things that young people need to make their own fashion collections, from industry professionals who can give them the skills to mobile screen printing. We’ve even got a t-shirt design completion where young people can design a Latitude t-shirt and get it printed up on the final day. You never know it could even end up on the Latitude merchandise website.”

Local input has always been an important aspect for Latitude organisers and alongside companies such as Culture Works East, local artists are also contributing to the line-up.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of local boy Ed Sheeran, who played Latitude last year will be Bury St Edmunds group The Soft and Ipswich-based Benjamin Bloom. Latitude has often been the starting point of many musical careers so it’s an important stage for up and coming bands. While many fans will be flocking to see headline acts Bon Iver, elbow and Paul Weller, there is always strong support for local acts across the festival.

Alongside the big musical acts, names already announced such as Jack Dee, Tim Minchin and The National Theatre ensure the festival continues to offer something for everyone. While other festivals have come and gone, Latitude has now firmly established itself on the festival calendar becoming, in Benn’s words “The most important cultural festival weekend in the UK”.

The seventh Latitude Festival runs in Henham Park from 12-15th July. The full line-up and details can be found at http://www.latitudefestival.co.uk/

Originally written for Ipswich 24 Magazine

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