Come hell or high water – the latter of which has seemed more likely, given the apocalyptic downpours which have marred this summer – the creative carnival that is the Latitude Festival is guaranteed to be one of this year’s biggest draws.
While Glastonbury’s fields lay fallow last year, this young pretender stepped on to the merry-go-round that is the UK’s festival circuit and quickly became one of the most talked about events of the summer.
Described by some as ‘Hay-on-Wye meets Glasto’, Latitude, on Suffolk’s sunshine coast, brought together a host of punters and performers last term to lap up the likes of Antony and the Johnsons, Mogwai, Jose Gonzalez, Camille and Patti Smith in the grounds of the serene Henham Park for three glorious days.
This year it looks like it will be trailblazing its way out into the lead again. As well as four stages of music, showcasing established acts and the cream of emerging talent, there are Edinburgh Festival previews in the theatre tent, titillation and tease in the cabaret tent, word play in the poetry arena and even a literary tent patronised by Radio 4.
The festival begins on Thursday at sundown with a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s very first silent black and white thriller The Lodger on the Lake Stage, with accompaniment from a live orchestra conducted by Robert Ziegler using a score by ex-Divine Comedy member Joby Talbot.
Thursday evening will also see some of the most talented wordsmiths in the country taking to the stage in the poetry arena. Luton based potatoe-phile and poet John Hegley will be showcasing his glorious show Uncut Confetti, while there will also be sets from the prodigiously talented Poet Laureate in-waiting Luke Wright, and the UK’s only poetry boyband Aisle 16.
Two piece spoken word maestros – Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip – will also be headlining proceedings on Saturday on the Lake Stage and Jarvis Cocker will be entertaining the crowds on the Obelisk stage on Sunday.
There’s no live music on Thursday but if you must dance, the acclaimed dress-up night The Beautiful And Damned has decamped from its North London home to join in the Latitude extravaganza. Expect a diverse range of tracks from Sinatra to Elvis. The quiet night will also be good for Latitude’s sheep – which have been dyed candy coloured especially for the occasion.
The full musical onslaught starts on Friday afternoon with Damien Rice headlining on the Obelisk stage. Also featuring on Friday are The Magic Numbers and Liverpudlian indie trio Hot Club de Paris.
Away from the main stage, ‘The Rolling Stones of the Desert’ and BBC World Music Award winners Tinariwen will kick things off on Friday night on the Uncut arena. Together for more than 28 years, they have released three albums including the award wining Amassakoul. The raw power and tenderness of their desert blues, songs that have become totems of the Sahara desert’s Generation X, will floor you.
The Good, The Bad and The Queen will be Saturday night’s big draw on the main stage playing melancholy London-tinged tracks from their eponymous gold-selling album. American indie rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (who will make you do just that) will also be doing a turn earlier in the day as will the theatrical and lyrically spellbinding Brightonians, Bat For Lashes.
But it will be left to Montreal eight piece, Arcade Fire, to bring the festival to a triumphant climax on Sunday evening with their epic ensemble, diverse instruments and euphoric live experience.
Other festival highlights include Brazil’s Bonde do Role, who will be bringing their dirty, chaotic, electro funk to the Sunrise tent on Friday evening. CSS will follow with their glorious synth driven indie pop on Saturday night in the Obelisk Arena. The Brazilians have been much celebrated this year and no doubt Latitude’s crowds will go wild for the irrepressibly funky tunes such as Alcohol, Failed Rehab and Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above.
The mind blowing talents of Rodrigo Y Gabriela will also be showcased on Saturday on the Uncut stage. Fusing both virtuoso Latin guitar, and rock music the duo’s fast fingers will leave you standing slack jawed. If you love Latino than go see the uber cool Parisian-based Gotan Project, for a final fling on the dance floor on Sunday night to their fusion of breaks, beats and unquenchable love of Latino.
Sunday sees proceedings take a rather more relaxing turn, with the romantic melodies of Angus & Julia Stone on the Uncut Stage, bouncy acoustic, trilingual pop from Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys and the dapper Strokes guitarist turned solo artist Albert Hammond Jr.
Keeping it quirky on Sunday are also Amy Mae’s Paris Motel, mixing classical, honky-tonk and kitsch folk, while Howling Bells will also be there to dazzle the crowds with their brand of narcotic rock.
If you need to take from the music, you can always rest with a beer in the comedy tent which this year features the talents of Adam Hills, Michael McIntrye and household names such as Bill Bailey Lee Mack, Alan Carr and Phil Jupitus. There’s also the Cabaret Tent which offers burlesque dancers or the 50s inspired Puppini Sisters, who will perform on all three days. Best of all, Sean Rowley brings the Guilty Pleasures DJs back to the comedy tent after hours – expect Madonna, Bananarama, Pet Shop Boys and a whole lot of fun.
Whatever your cultural peccadilloes and predilections, Latitude will press buttons you didn’t even know you had. Eclectic, leftfield and civilised, the atmosphere and acts are unrivalled and best of all it’s still in its infancy. So, arrive on Thursday to lap up the cultural kudos, and say you were there from the very beginning.