Out and About

Latitude Festival 2016

July 17th 2016 | Henham Park, Suffolk | Comedy | Gigs

Words: Phil Stewart | Photo: Phil Stewart

If I was given a very restrictive word count of a single word to describe Latitude Festival 2016, I would choose the word “special”. Now in it’s 11th year, Latitude has proven itself to be very different to all the other major summer festivals.

For a start, the festival is very family-friendly. The age range enjoying the acts together is literally 6 to 66. The event is also very civilised - comedian Mark Steel rightly refers to Latitude as “the Waitrose of Festivals”. There’s none of the mud and chaos that Glastonbury is known for. This year, there were people literally having picnics, enjoying a free wine tasting in the sun, in front of whatever act was presented to them on the main stage.

Which brings me to this year’s line up – and let’s get the only real negative out of the way: this year (when compared to last year), the music line-up was missing a few major A-listers that you might expect at such a big event – but it was still very strong, with post-punk / electronica legends New Order being this year’s “big act”, accompanied by more current bands such as The Maccabees, Chvrches and The Lumineers. There was also an unannounced appearance from global megastar (and local boy) Ed Sheeran during relatively minor act Foy Vance’s set. However, I think festival goers would rather he’d make a return to the main stage – he’s not been there since before he was famous!

However, in its defence, I would say instead that Latitude less about major music acts, and more about festival goers listening to new and upcoming sounds – such as relatively new acts Grimes and Of Monsters And Men on the BBC 6Music stage, or the excellent Joy Atlas on the BBC Introducing Stage.

Also, Latitude isn’t just about the music; there’s a whole other side to the festival which is equally as important: comedy and the arts. And this year, the line-up was very strong indeed. Major household names performing well included stand-up comedians Bill Bailey and Al Murray, along with charming and erudite documentary-maker Louis Theroux and eloquent and surprisingly funny film critic Mark Kermode, plus Jane Horrocks performing songs from her West End show “If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me”.

They were supported by a whole host of well-known comedians, to the extent that many people found a good spot at the front of the always-heaving comedy tent, and stayed there the whole weekend! To be fair, some of these were more successful than others: Although popular with the crowd, Katherine Ryan, Josh Widdicombe, Kerry Godliman and Nish Kumar were a tad negative, coarse and sweary for a family event such as Latitude for my taste; whereas on the flip-side, family-friendly Milton Jones was great, but I felt that the audience weren’t on his wavelength, so his puns and one-liners fell a little flat. More successful – and just about family-friendly - were the endearing shambles Mark Watson, the charming Hal Cruttenden and current America’s Got Talent sensation Tape Face.

However, perhaps it’s just me – or maybe it’s a Latitude thing – but in my mind, the most effective acts were those that were essentially just people mucking around: Norwich’s own Adam Buxton’s unique (and heartfelt) tribute to David Bowie, which included silly songs and a LEGO-based Bowie sitcom scene;  Paul Merton (and his Impro Chums) hilariously showing off for an hour without scripts, creating huge laughs from audience suggestions; and the politically-themed dance act mash-up silliness of Cassette Boy vs DJ Rubbish, who at one point had the crowd dancing to the theme from Dallas, while two grown men jumped around in monkey masks, and a ridiculous DJ threw sweets at the audience.

But towering way above all these acts, above all the music and all the comedy, the highlight of all highlights by a long, long way, was comedian and life-long Prince fan Marcus Brigstocke’s  “PrinceFest”. It doesn’t sound like much: for an hour, Marcus and his surprise celebrity guest friends (including comedians Josie Long and Rufus Hound) mimed to Prince tracks in silly costumes in tribute to the recent passing of Purple One. But the atmosphere was electric, the crowd loved every second, partying with intent, and to borrow Marcus’s own words, I had “the most fun I’ve had in years”. Mr Nelson would have loved it. Very special indeed.

Bring on Latitude 2017!

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