Not just rock'n'roll

 

A live show from the 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".

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 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 has 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 an event 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." So with Glastonbury off, Latitude is the obvious alternative. But with its impressive line-up across the arts, it's the alternative any year.

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