The Great British Festival is the accumulation of thousands of different stories shafted into the rear end of a weekend that contrast un-paralleled debauchery with fleeting moments of majesty.
This years Latitude Festival did not disappoint on either front. Nestled in the depths of North Suffolk, equidistant from Islington-on-Sea and Wenhaston (the scene of 1 murder and several disturbing instances involving the clergy) Latitude remains a temporary bastion of all things good and green and loud on The River Blyth.
A festival by its very nature is the coalition of separate environments in one giant bubble of creativity, free thinking and £9.50 falafels. The beauty of this concept is that artists are able to learn from each other and experience art in its many different media . One hears how certain acts “really got the festival crowd going” or “soundtracked the sunset” but its not really about that. It’s about taking individuals out of their comfort zones, making them susceptible to different ways of thinking and then finally letting them experience new and exciting things in the comfort of universal appreciation and acceptance. Héloïse Letissier from Christine and The Queens played on Friday evening and in-between the Michael Jackson dance moves and french discotheque uttered the all encompassing phrase “you can be whatever you want to be Latitude” perfectly encompassing the ideals imbued from artist to fan on platforms such as these.
My aim this year was to try and find artists who were both conscious of their responsibility to affirm and entertain but also able to transport the audience into a world separate from the mundane existence of lukewarm noodles and pub grub Mandy. One such band who managed to perfectly distill that feeling of transportation was Suffolk/London collective Drones Club. Having played the festival a number of years ago under the guise of Cheeky Cheeky and The Nosebleeds the fearsome 5-some filled a twilight Sunrise Arena with pumping bass in the style of The Residents with a sprinkling of Devo by way of ISIS. Mildly disturbing, fantastic and enriching.
It would be easy to just describe the weirdest and wackiest bands in the festival’s darkest corners, hype them a bit and not really tackle the great diversity at the festival. RnB/Pop acts Liss and Honne played on separate days on separate stages to very separate audiences but managed like Drones Club to create a stylised environment in which people were able to experience the raw essence of both bands. Music was not all that was on offer however. Late Late Show band leader Reggie Watts was responsible for a nearly ruptured stomach due to unprecedented levels of chortling with his take on Brexit and mild Americanisms that are sniggered at in the quiet halls and expansive fields of East Anglia.
At night the scenes changed into a surreal world of illuminated trees and fantastical creatures inhabiting the wild and wooly reaches of the festival site. Huge light structures hang from towering pine trees and dripped luminescence onto wide eyed revellers below. The pounding bass of differing stages rose into a cacophony of reverberated noise pummelling ear drums and invading hearts and minds in a contorted, tribal beat to which everyone succumbed. The night created slaves to beats and mind manipulating visions all following the call of a high pitched siren or the wailing vocal of some demented DJ. When the dawn finally appears people rise and contemplate the level of hedonism in which they partook and reflect on the licentiousness of the evening previous.
When a festival comes to an end the sense of community fades albeit gradually. As I sit and write this I can almost hear the screeches of Marco Polo between campsites or the cross political, social and racial divide of collective British whining. From Sunday Evening Utopia to Monday Afternoon Dystopia the change is striking. The drip drop of abandoned water points and piles of plastic and tin create an almost apocalyptic setting.
As the days go on the rubbish starts to disappear, as do the fences and wires and tents and other constructs of exclusion and inclusion. Slowly the wildlife begins to creep back in, the grass starts to grow and birds start to chirp. In a years time a frog will be happily swimming in the lake, a doe will be casually munching through the sweet green grass – then suddenly once more the distant sounds of John Pienaar, Attila the Stockbroker, Swampy the trustafarian, random 90s has-beens and of course the London Alternative Bourgeoisie and their free range lactose intolerant children will break the silence and my heart will be whole again.
photography: rory james
Words by Aaron Powell