Preview: Latitude Festival – It’s more than just a music festival

It’s more than just a music festival the advertising material proudly proclaims. Now in its sixth year at Henham Park, the Latitude Festival most certainly is. Music, comedy, literature, theatre and children’s entertainment all combine to create a unique festival.

Speaking at this year’s media launch, Melvin Benn, founder of Latitude is undeniable excited about, not just this year’s festival, but, the long term plans for the event. Contracts have just been signed to host the Latitude Festival for a further 15 years, seeing the festival up to and hopefully beyond its 21st Birthday.

The festival has grown so much in both scope and reputation over the last 6 years it’s hard to imagine what that 21st anniversary festival would look like, however, based on this year’s line up it’s a prospect to savour.

Organisers are investing heavily in the site and are about to open a new bridge onsite to try and ease congestion ahead of this years festival. Its just one example of how organisers are keen to improves facilities for festival goers. Another key development this year is an introduction of a Teen Zone at the festival. Named after the TV series, the Inbetweeners Zone will be teenage dedicated area that will provide some thrilling opportunities.

Sharon Reuben programmer for the area is proud of the line up she has assembled;
“Working with Culture Works and Access to Music we are able to offer high quality, professional opportunities for teenagers, its not about dumbing down but providing real opportunity. For example, for budding writers there will be the opportunity to be paired up with a writer from Dazed and Confused, review a performance and then come back and edit and publish.”
Sharon is also excited about the opportunity to work with Greenpeace, celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year and adventure play company Monkey Do to tap into the natural beauty of the Henham estate while providing some exhilarating experiences for visitors.

Young budding music artists will also have their opportunity to perform in a fully functioning professional recording studio, housed in a classic Airstream caravan. Limited to those aged 12 and above, for the first time the facility will also be providing taster sessions on the Thursday evening.

Theatre has always been a strong component of Latitude and it’s an area that companies are increasingly clamouring to attend.

For theatre programmer Tania Harrison it’s a vital component of festival life.
“Theatre tells us what’s important in society and this festival is about engaging both mind and body.”
Tania is passionate about bringing high quality theatre to Henham and not as she describes it “not just theatre in a field”. That dedication to quality shows in the standard of company that she manages to attract to Suffolk each year.

Some of Tania’s ‘don’t miss’ recommendations include Lost Dog’s It Needs Horses, a show that won the UK’s largest Choreography prize this year and the latest show by rising stars of the theatre world 1927, renowned for their breathtaking use of projection and dark comedy.

Tania isn’t content to make things easy for her production team, transforming stages with trapezes, projectors and turning one stage into a 1960s East End pub.

Of course music is the cornerstone of Latitude and Melvin Benn was keen to stress the ethos of the festival to develop new talent;
“Latitude is really a festival that puts acts on that other festivals then follow.”
This development of talent is seen with one of this year’s Headline Acts Paolo Nutini, one of whose first performances was at the 2006 Latitude Festival and now returns to headline the 2011 Festival.

One name to watch for future Headline stardom is local lad Ed Sheeran. Ed has been inspired by the success of Latitude to pursue his musical career and this year will be opening the main stage on the Saturday.

That is one of the areas that separate Latitude from the rest of the festival circuit, the sense of local connection.As Sharon Reuben describes it
“Although people come from all over the country to Latitude, it still retains that local feel”
The 14th – 17th July will see thousands of festival-goers descend on the Henham estate and, if the sun is shining on the park like it was today, they are in for a glorious four days in the beautiful Suffolk Countryside.

The full line up can be found on the Latitude website

This article was originally written in assocation with Ipswich24 Magazine

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