Henham Park yet again provided the backdrop for a truly awesome weekend as we returned five years later to one of the UK’s most eclectic and immersive festival experiences – Latitude 2017.
Latitude 2017 in a Nutshell
The 1975 gave a phenomenal debut headline performance on Friday night. Mumford and Sons and their Gentlemen of the Road Takeover brought with it so many memorable performances – notably their headline set – and Fleet Foxes (who haven’t performed in the UK in over 5 years and this was their only UK gig) rounded off the weekend, the only way they know how, in stunning glory.
Why this year was epic
Although we didn’t manage to stay for the full four days, we certainly made the best of our stay. I’ve always loved Latitude for it’s big, eccentric personality. This year was possibly my favourite Latitude. There were a number of reasons at play!
Five Things I Loved about Latitude 2017
The Speakeasy Tent
This was my spiritual home for our visit. 2017 was the first year that the festival brought together all its debate, discussion, authors and poets under one roof. There was everything from author sessions with award-winning writers, poetry performances from the brightest voices and lively discussion late into the night.
What I loved even more, was the laid-back atmosphere of this tent. People, including myself, took advantage of the easy-going vibe and were literally lying down or propped up on cushions and blankets – it was like one large sitting room with a three dimensional Radio 4 playing out in front of us all.
There are almost too many things to mention including spots from the brilliant Ross Sutherland. I’ve attended a poetry workshop with Ross before and he never fails to disappoint. He’s a modern performance poet who combines his playwriting, acting, comedic and writing skills to his often off-the-wall performances. He’s one of the most exciting artists to watch live – I’d really recommend checking him out.
And then there was possibly my biggest surprise of The Speakeasy Tent. During one particular session, forgetting to check the programme, I stumbled into the tent by pure chance and it took me a good ten minutes, I’m ashamed to say, to recognize that the emotionally intelligent, highly-engaging and well-versed chap on stage was actually Will Young. His ‘The Art of Listening’ explored the importance of being heard and why it doesn’t happen and how we can look at co-dependency and boundaries to create better relationships, working lives and ultimately look at ourselves. I had no idea of his backstory or interest in this field, which is why it took me a while to realise this was Will Young but he was truly captivating, empathetic, compassionate and down-to-earth, he was so in tune with the audience, very clearly displaying the listening skills he was there to speak about.
Diverse Food Options
You’d think that catering for two vegetarians, one of which was on a 30 day sugar detox, would be a bit tricky for one home-cooked meal let alone 12 meals over the course of a weekend at a festival. No problem at Latitude! There was an impressive selection of food stalls including fare from South India, Chinese, Thai, Spanish, fish & chips, veggie & vegan burgers & wraps, South Indian and even Tibetan! And that’s not even a drop in the ocean – there were 121 food stalls altogether! So no excuses. Although, this did happen.
The Head and the Heart
The Head and the Heart were head and shoulders above the rest. It’s been four years since we’ve seen them live and I welled up at various points – so much has happened over the last few years and this band has seen us through most of it. Too many fond memories listening to and recreating their music with my other half – I used to sing ‘Let’s Be Still’ to out little girl when she was a baby – it was the one song she’d always respond to with such emotion and intrigue. I have the biggest appreciation for this band. What a truly awesome performance. And we got to hear some of their new stuff too. Loving Signs of Light and All We Ever Knew.
Surrounded by stunning vistas of the Suffolk countryside, there’s a beautiful lake where wild swimming is permitted and where a Lake Stage is located for some of the acts. But possibly my favourite part of the venue is the woodland, The Faraway Forest, surrounding the edge of the main stages which is full of art installations and pop-up venues roaming the thick of this delightful area.
The Entertainment Options
There were 750 acts at this year’s festival. 750! And literally something for everyone including: Art, cabaret, comedy, dance, film, kids’ area, lake swimming, literature. Music, poetry, theatre and yoga!
Five things I discovered about Latitude this year
The Truth About The Pink Sheep
There are approx. 60 sheep at Latitude, chosen from a flock of 1,000. They are painted with a non-toxic face paint, which does not harm the sheep. The paint usually gets more vibrant as time goes on, as the dye sinks into the wool and it usually lasts until Christmas time. I was a little concerned when I first saw the pink sheep but apparently the sheep actually quite enjoy the painting process and love the attention they get from the people at Latitude. Ah, I love a happy ending.
Royal Festival Loos
Sorry to bring up the subject of peeing in this post but let’s face it, this can often be one of the most talked about aspects of a camping and festival experience or at least the standard of lavatories are. Latitude was one of the first ‘proper’ festivals I’d attended way back when and I remember thinking that I must have pretty low standards when it came to toilets because the ’grim festival loos’ didn’t bother me very much. My feet were always spotless after a visit. It was the same story at this year’s festival too – there was always loo roll, a clean loo seat, limited blockages and hand sanitizer. I think the festival organisers must be predominately female, that’s my only conclusion. Latitude has over 600 portals, and in recognition of their standards, last year won Best Toilets (UK Festival Awards 2016).
Although wild swimming was off limits at certain points this year, in 2016 the festival saw over 9,000 people participate in swimming in the lake. It’s a regular thing so expect more dips in next year’s festival.
We have a very young family and this year returned without our littlie. However, we half regretted our decision because it was very clear that Latitude has a lot to offer kids. There’s a self-contained kids’ area, lots of wide open spaces, shaded spots and of course, any noise they make is COMPLETELY lost in the festival fun. Simply rock up with a wooden festival cart and you have a self-contained pushchair, bed and play area all in one. Watch out Latitude 2018!
5) The Localist of Local Produce
Latitude actually offers a very local kind of local produce. I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any other UK festivals that have a small brewery like the one actually located in Henham Park. Its beer Hektor’s Pure, probably doesn’t get any more local than this.
As the sun sets on this year’s festival, sights are already set on 2018 when Latitude will return to Henham Park in July for its 13th edition. Tickets for Latitude Festival 2018 are already available now.
For highlights, photos and more, check out www.latitudefestival.com
A huge thank you to Festival Republic and the Corner Shop for having us along this year as their guests! Although we didn’t manage to stay for the full weekend, it was our favourite festival yet.