Latitude Festival, Henham Park, Suffolk <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Another summer, another new festival. Last week, Suffolk's sunrise coast played host to the first Latitude Festival, which promised to be entirely different from your run-of-the-mill weekender, with tents dedicated to literature, comedy, cabaret and theatre, as well as music.

As locations go, Henham Park is one of the most stunning on the festival circuit. Candy-coloured sheep grazed by a shimmering lake (yes, really), surrounded by pine forests. A mixed crowd of hip young things and families enjoyed a low-key and rather upmarket weekender - it was the only festival I've been to that offers waiter service.

Big names such as John Cooper Clarke and Patti Smith ensured that the Stand-up Poetry Tent was surprisingly packed, and some rather serious Royal Court readings went down well in the theatre tents. Much more successful was the cabaret arena, with acrobatics, burlesque striptease, Kate Bush puppetry and a man dressed as a bird marrying a woman in a straw hat, with a mutant Elvis as the minister.

As for the music, the up-and-comers trumped the more established acts. A lacklustre Snow Patrol were pretty much the only chart-botherers, but one-time grunge casualty Evan Dando was on hand to remind us of the jangle-pop brilliance of the Lemonheads.

Saturday hosted a plethora of hot new acts. French avant-pop act Camille made the most of a patchy crowd - by the end of her set, she had everyone on their feet, barking like dogs. The fuzzy Australian noir of Howling Bells' recent debut album translated superbly, thanks to raven-haired beauty Juanita Stein and her sexy, malleable vocals.

The London skank-rockers Larrikin Love were a revelation. With a clownish grin and looking like a character from Oliver Twist, front man Edward Larrikin delivered the most exciting performance of the weekend, aided by the band's skewed and scrambling indie-pop, with a high-energy dose of ska and skiffle.

As a first-time festival, the organisers were bound to get something wrong: this was to house the main stage inside a tent, while the least interesting one (the Lake Stage: heavy on singer-songwriters) was outdoors. There's nothing more guaranteed to create that festival feeling of togetherness than watching fantastic music in the open air, but as it was, Antony and the Johnsons in the crowded Obelisk Arena failed to set hearts racing. Nevertheless, I'll be there next year to see if the Mean Fiddler organisation can repeat Latitude's barn-storming debut.

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