The lowdown on Latitude: Our pick of the highlights at this weekend's Suffolk festival

There's more to Latitude than just great music, says Elisa Bray

Glastonbury may be taking a sabbatical this year, but there's no chance of festival-going music fans feeling hard done by. With its trio of headliners Bon Iver, Elbow and Paul Weller, hotly tipped new bands, and acts including Laura Marling and Rufus Wainwright on the bill, Latitude is – if not the biggest – the best line-up of the festival season.

But Latitude is not just about rock and pop music and big-name headline acts. Since its inception in 2006, when it welcomed around 5,000 visitors (that figure is now 35,000), Latitude has been billed as "not just a music festival", but rather as the kind of festival aimed at people who wouldn't typically go to a straight-up rock and pop festival. Across the festival's stages and tents over four days, you'll find comedy, talks, opera, theatre, literature and poetry. And on the Waterfront stage, overlooking the lake, you'll find ballet. It also has a comedy and theatre line-up to rival Edinburgh.

In its seventh year, Latitude remains the queen of arts festivals, which is why it's gained a reputation as the festival for middle-class families. It's been a winning formula that has helped spur the prominence of arts across the festival circuit. With the boom in boutique festivals, it is now perfectly normal to see Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake a metre or two away from, say, Paul Weller.

But a few years ago, before the emergence of Latitude and other boutique festivals, the idea of having ballet or opera at a music festival would have been considered absurd. All of which explains why Latitude director Melvin Benn was laughed at when he decided to set up a festival where the music was secondary. Benn wanted the festival to appeal to Hay-on-Wye or Edinburgh festival-going types.

"I wanted to start with the principle of literature and poetry being at the heart of the festival", he explains. "When you come over the campsite and over the bridge, the first thing you come across is the literature and poetry tents. Normally you have music at the heart. My team said 'Melvin, you've lost the plot!' It was the same with opera. I very much wanted it to break ground and redefine what a festival could be."

The ballet element has become so popular that the Waterfront stage has been unofficially renamed the "Sadler's Wells stage". "When the Matthew Bourne version of Swan Lake was performed on the Waterfront stage it was extraordinary", Benn recalls. "There must have been 20,000 people crowding round. It was a magical moment in the history of the festival."

With Glastonbury being off this year, Latitude is the obvious alternative. But with its impressive line-up across the arts, it's the alternative any year.

Latitude, today to Sunday at Henham Park, Suffolk (latitudefestival.co.uk)

COMEDY

Tim Minchin

Considering that the comedy-rock superstar sold out the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, this show will no doubt have crowds rivalling the music headliners. Arrive early to see Minchin and his band play his witty, unsettling songs.

Doc Brown

Zadie Smith's brother was a rapper until 2008 when he turned to stand-up, and now combines the two in his comedy show.

Greg Davies

Best-known as Mr Gilbert in The Inbetweeners, Davies gave up teaching for comedy. See him before he takes his new show The Back of My Mum's Head on the road this autumn.

Josie Long

Expect plenty of political satire from the left-wing-activist comedian's critically acclaimed Romance and Adventure from Edinburgh last year.

DANCE

Spitfire

In 1988, Matthew Bourne had his first hit with his version of Perrot's 19th-century ballet.Here, it's performed in a glorious open setting.

The Most Incredible Thing

The Pet Shop Boys' first ballet score, a collaboration with the choreographer Javier de Frutos, incorporates a live orchestra with house, trance and synths, while the dance features film installation and cabaret.

TALKS

Jeremy Deller

The Turner prize-winning artist discusses his and co-director Nick Abraham's new film, The Bruce Lacey Experience, which examines Lacey's legacy as a painter, sculptor and avant-garde film-maker.

THEATRE

National Theatre

The writers behind the hit musical adaptation of Spring Awakening bring their new show – Alice By Heart – to Latitude.

Lyric Hammersmith

The Lyric returns with a new series of site-specific theatre pieces from five of the country's most innovative theatre companies.

LITERATURE AND POETRY

Iain Banks

The bestselling author of The Wasp Factory reads from his new book, Stonemouth.

Siri Hustvedt

The author of What I Loved brings philosophy to the festival as she reads from her new collection of essays Living, Thinking, Looking.

Tim Key

No stranger to awards and invitations to work with other comedians – Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan (and Charlie Brooker – the comic performance poet returns to Latitude.

Simon Armitage

The Yorkshire poet reads from his new book Walking Home, which charts his 256-mile journey across the Pennine Way.

CLASSICAL

Lang Lang

The 29-year-old world-renowned classical pianist is accustomed to performing for royalty and Barack Obama, but here makes his first-ever outdoor festival appearance.

NEW BANDS

Toy

Heavily tipped by The Horrors, the London five-piece share in their psychedelic art-rock and atmospheric swells of guitar. One of this year's most hyped bands.

Cold Specks

Canadian Al Spx has a voice that recalls Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson, and creates evocative blues songs steeped in the musical traditions of the American Deep South.

Alt-J

Hailed as "the lifeblood of new music" by Radio 1's Zane Lowe, the experimental band from Leeds meld reverb-drenched blues-soul vocals with a variety of playful percussion and dissonant melodies.

Django Django

The quartet met at art school and have a brother in the Beta Band which helps explain their psychedelic tendencies. The sonic adventurers' jerky, melodic, indie-pop and clever use of rhythm has already attracted throngs at this year's Great Escape and Field Day.

Alabama Shakes

The Alabama four-piece have already built a reputation as a top live act while Adele and Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner are fans of their raw take on Southern soul. Their top trump is their guitar-playing frontwoman, 23-year-old Brittany Howard, whose powerful voice compares to Robert Plant's.

Lucy Rose

The gentle, Dido-esque voiced singer-songwriter's songs are simple, but have the instrumental build-up to keep it interesting. She's also become an almost-member of Bombay Bicycle Club, singing on their 2011 album.

Other Lives

You can see why Radiohead are fans of this Oklahoma indie-rock five-piece, and invited them on tour. Live, they impressively re-create the layers of their cinematic album Tamer Animals.

BIGGER BANDS

Elbow

Before their Mercury prize-winning The Seldom Seen Kid, the Manchester band seemed doomed never to make it as headliners. Expect heart-warming songs, oodles of charisma from frontman Guy Garvey and a mass singalong for "One Day Like This".

Metronomy

The indie-pop band with a dance lilt bring songs from their much-loved Mercury prize-nominated The English Riviera to the festival.

Bon Iver

Much credit is due to Justin Vernon for bringing falsetto into the pop charts. His band's beautifully emotive, delicate indie-pop has the power to reduce a vast audience to silence.

Richard Hawley

The former Pulp member has one of the best albums of this year with Standing at the Sky's Edge. His life-affirming majestic psychedelic rock will be a treat.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Californian singer Alex Ebert created the messianic figure of Edward Sharpe as his stage persona, and his band's psychedelic songs are other-worldly, joyous and deeply stirring.

Laura Marling

A live show from the shy-but-assured 22-year-old singer-songwriter is always a joy to watch, from her delicate finger-picked folk songs to the country stomp of newer numbers such as "Sophia".

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot