In just a few years the annual Latitude Festival has emerged as one of the highlights of the English summer festival season. And it’s little wonder because an absolutely packed programme of music, theatre, comedy, art, poetry, cabaret, literature – and even politics – is one of those events that is sure to have ‘something for everybody’. All of this in the glorious setting of a Repton designed parkland estate, Henham Park in Suffolk.
Latitude is organised by the same people who run the Reading and Leeds Festivals, Festival Republic, and, like those much larger events, it can boast an unbelievably wide range of artists appearing each year. Since it began in 2006, Latitude has broadened its scope such that it’s impossible for most people to see half of what they hope to during the weekend.
Music, of course, is at the core of Latitude and there are four arenas dedicated solely to a wide range of performers – in 2009, for example, Grace Jones, The Pet Shop Boys, Nick Cave and Little Boots were amongst more than 100 separate acts playing. Because of the space available at Henham Park, there is considerable space between the arenas and festival-goers never feel cramped for space. Each arena has its own special qualities but for many the Lake Stage, where the performers literally play whilst floating on a lake, has an atmosphere all of its own. With only around 12,000 spectators, this makes for a very relaxed ambience to the whole weekend.
And there is so much more than music at Latitude. The Theatre Arena hosts quality drama such as offerings from the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Young Vic and the National Outdoor Theatre, amongst many more. The Waterfront Stage has seen performances from the Royal Opera House company and Sadler’s Wells. The Comedy Arena generally sees shows by nationally well known comedians.
Additionally, Latitude has a Film and Music Arena, with a number of screenings and Question and Answer sessions with notable representatives of the industries. There’s also a Literary Arena and even a Poetry Arena. Art is not forgotten at Latitude, as, in addition to various specific art happenings, a number of installations are spread throughout the park.
Children are welcomed at Latitude and have many activities organised specifically for them. Those between the ages of 5 and 12 will receive a free ticket – although organizers do point out that some of the productions or performers might not be considered suitable for everyone and ask parents to exercise their discretion.
During recent years the BBC has taken a keen interest in the festival, with many Radio 2, 4 and 5 Live programmes being broadcast directly from Henham Park or recorded for later transmission.
Henham Park is a wonderful festival venue and many people choose to camp there. As well as bars and food stalls, there are plenty of other facilities such as First Aid and Paramedics, showers, a Welfare tent, lockers, phone recharging points and cash points.
Henham Park is a few miles south of Lowestoft and 5 miles to the west of Southwold in Suffolk. The nearest train station, Halesworth, has a very limited service and rail users are recommended instead to consider travelling to Ipswich, 34 miles away, and transferring to the regular festival Shuttle bus service, which operates from both stations. Full details of the Latitude Festival including programme and ticket availability appears on the official festival website.