Latitude Festival 2011

Part One

(For a more critical, less personally slanted review (kind of), you can check out the feature at

After being harassed encouraged by our friends from Belladrum to head down to Latitude this year, myself and Kaylie embarked on the ridiculously long journey from Glasgow to Suffolk. For those of you not too familiar with English geography, the ‘Sunrise Coast’ is on the South East, and sits somewhere between Ipswich and Norwich.

There’s no denying that the whole thing was pretty cool. Unlike most bigger festivals where you can often feel like… well, sheep… pushed through certain gates and lanes and treated as a mass rather than individuals; thrown together into a big field with a few bland stages under canvas (if you’re lucky), and given the pleasure of buying some expensive beers; Latitude had a considered approach to the whole thing.

They often say that the element that really makes something worthwhile and interesting is the details. At a wedding that might be the wee, idiosyncratic touches by the couple, and at a festival it’s just as important. It was pretty amazing to find that everything from the local livestock to the look of the venues themselves had been taken into account. Even one of the strange old structures that lived on the farm itself had been turned into some sort of makeshift cocktail bar… as if it was just part of the landscape.

…and that’s just it. Latitude didn’t feel like it was plonked down for the weekend; it had a real organic, lived-in feel. It was as if it was perfectly natural for the whole thing to be present all-year round on that spot, and co-exist with its surroundings perfectly.

As well as its own river (complete with water-front stages), there was a pile of secrets to be found within the forest that ran across the middle and edges of the arena.

During the day, this was a place to discover relatively new bands, and stumble upon impromptu art galleries scattered throughout the woods. At night, it turned into a hazy drunken party.

I can’t help but think that within 10 minutes at T in the Park, people would be swimming in the water and swinging from branch to branch on the trees. I wonder what that says about Scottish culture.

Probably nothing.

Musically, the lineup was not one that set the heather on fire, so to speak. It would definitely have appealed to somebody, but the majority of the acts were fairly middle-of-the-road and had a suitably safe, generic appeal. Not that that’s always a bad thing… and to be honest, at least the collection of acts at Latitude was original this year, unlike some other festivals that we could name but won’t. There were a few exceptions though, including the wonderful Sea of Bees, Ghostpoet and Seasick Steve. It’s no surprise that two out of those three were on the Huw Stephens’ curated Lake Stage. He’s a man with good taste.

This girl (playing with Sea of Bees) had a sexy waist.

It could well have been the long, twisty drive along obscure A roads that wore me out, but despite feeling like I really should be having a great time (after all, this is just the type of festival that would appeal to my sensibilities), I couldn’t quite seem to make the most of things.

This isn’t a feeling that’s been specific to Latitude by any means. Last year whilst doing the festival rounds for Artrocker, I couldn’t help but feel bored (boring?), out of the loop, and dis-engaged.

Since 2007, I’ve done something around 30 festivals, which may go some way to explaining things. Perhaps I’m just suffering from festival burnout. There could well be a good reason to avoid traipsing from field to field, year on year. Birthday parties wouldn’t be as exciting if you had them every week, after all.

As well as that, my attitude has somewhat changed. When I first was gallavanting about festivals on my own, I was very much doing living the rock-and-roll lifestyle. I used to joke that all I needed was a tent, cameras, and a bottle or two of Jack… and sometimes I didn’t even bring a tent. That was closer to reality than I would have admitted at the time. The full time was spent stumbling from place to place, meeting new people, and generally exploring; letting decisions be made on the fly. Not something I’m usually comfortable with.

You can’t sustain that forever though, and to try and cling on to that sort of attitude and experience is inevitably fruitless. I’d like to wrestle it back somehow; I’d like to fall in love with festivals again.


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