2018 was our second visit to Latitude. We went in 2016 because the National were headlining and we love them so much it hurts. We came back two years later, not because we didn’t have a great time, but because we had to pay for house renovation stuff and we couldn’t afford it.
This year we paid using the ‘pay over four months’ option which was awesome. By the time the date came we’d saved money for food (essential) and bought loads of quite good camping gear from Decathlon (also essential).
Latitude is set in Henham Park in Suffolk. A trek for us from Brighton, but the setting is worth it. Think forests where the sun peeks through fir trees, a glistening lake, miles of fields and some truly special sunsets. A couple were far more impressive than the bands they were the backdrop to actually, but more on that later.
The signage was good. The car park was as far away from the campsite as any would be at a festival with 30,00+ people. You can hire trailers to take your stuff down to the camp site on, but you have to leave £100 deposit and if you are not back within an hour and a half you get fined. Yes, the money goes to charity though. A lot of the services they offer do. For example, Green Peace pay out £5 per bin bag of plastic bottles collected.
We got a great pitch, near but not too near the toilets and the entrance to the main arena. We arrived in good time but were still entertainment for the middle-class people who’d arrived earlier and set up their palatial canvas extravaganzas (think bunting and Fortnum and Mason hampers).
They sipped Prosecco as the husband and I rowed over how to erect the inflatable tent we’d bought but never put up before. ‘Tinkle tinkle’ went their laughs as we couldn’t work out the pump.
As soon as we set up we went to get our bearings and were delighted to see it was laid out the same as it had been two-years previously. Family camping includes ‘the enchanted garden’ where kids can make all sorts of arts and crafts, learn disco dancing, print t-shirts and learn about nature. A lot of the kids stuff is sponsored by the Fairyland Trust, so as the kids make some butterfly wings, they learn a bit about butterflies.
There is a larger kids area in the main arena where they can whittle, paint spoons, weave, collect litter from the ocean, cook in a mud garden, get face-paint, join in with theatres, star-gaze, pond dip, climb scramble nets, record their own songs, make-films, learn archery, circus skills, and do family yoga. This year Oatly had a bar inside the enchanted garden and gave away chocolate milk, granola and various other drinks, all made with Oatly milk. I was originally suspicious but free is free and I’d genuinely buy some of their stuff at home. The kids got free t-shirts for answering a question like ‘what is your name’ and more free chocolate milk.
Me and the husband didn’t get to see as much stuff as we’d have liked as we were so worn out from all the kids activities.
We did get to eat an awful lot of nice food. I won’t lie, eating at Latitude, as with any other festival, is expensive. On a good note, everything we ate was delicious and we ate a lot. Greek, Indian, Italian, Turkish. Wood fired pizza, scotch eggs, fish and chips, waffles and ice-cream, Mac and cheese, steak sandwiches, fruit lollies, milkshakes, cakes, beer, gin, wine, burgers, bangers, the lot.
You’d think we’d be fat, but you walk miles at Latitude, without really knowing it so I’m sure I’ve actually lost weight.
There were loads of awesome traders. Shout out to Retro Bambi who kitted us all out in glittery clothes for the Killers, and Joe Shmo who sells beautiful leather jewellery and let us use his loo.
Massive thanks to the people who ran the Swimming lake area, it was the only time we washed. Kudos to all the people constantly collecting litter or asking if everyone was okay. I was amazed at how clean the site was (apart from the adult camping area where kids in shorts that showed perfect bottoms applied too much make-up among a sea of their own litter before heading to the disco tent to dance all night. Do I sound jealous and bitter? I am).
My middle daughter has a bladder the size of a pea, so we are officials on the loos of Latitude. We could write a book about them. I won’t. All I’ll say is the ones nearest the family camping were clean and stocked the whole four days we were there.
The ones in the village next to the adult camping were the worst and all the others were middling to good. There were lots of places to fill up water, wash hands and soak dusty feet. We didn’t use the showers as I believe washing were 300 people have recently washed before will only make you dirtier. I laid out wet wipes in the shape of my family and we rolled round on them. Glitter covered the worst of the stains.
I saw a wonderful piece of theatre by a company called ‘The Lost Dog’ about Romeo and Juliet. The show reveals the real story of Romeo and Juliet. It turns out they didn’t die in a tragic misunderstanding, they grew up and lived happily ever after. Well they lived at least. Now they’re 40ish, at least one of them is in the grips of a mid-life crisis, they feel constantly mocked by their teenage selves and haunted by the pressures of being the poster couple for romantic love. They have decided to confront their current struggles by putting on a performance – about themselves. Their therapist told them it was a terrible idea.
With Lost Dog’s blend of dance, theatre and comedy this duet takes on our cultural obsession with youth and our inevitable issues with longevity. It was so much better than that blurb which I nicked off their website. I could not praise it enough.
I also caught a glimpse of Suffrageddon, a hip hop musical about the life of Emmeline Pankhurst and the fight for votes for women. Think Lauren Hill with fat better lyrics. It was insanely good. I didn’t get to see the whole show and it filled up too quickly. I did think Latitude should have held a second performance. Instead, some of the crew did a couple of songs on the Lake Stage which was a teaser of what I missed and will go and see elsewhere.
The Speakeasy area is always full of amazing poets and writers talking about everything and nothing. It’s attached to a Waterstones bookshop where you can see all the writers who are at the festival. There are other bookshops and lots of places give away kids books for free.
The kids watched a talk with Kevin Fong who trained with Tim Peake and enjoyed his tales of cold water shock and experiencing zero gravity conditions. Kevin is like, mega famous in his industry, which I didn’t really understand till I googled him.
The worst bit about the festival was probably the bands. I’m sad to say that as I love music and would always be the primary reason I go to a festival, but I wasn’t impressed by much. The first band we saw was James, who kicked off with ‘All out to get you’ and made me all emotional and excited for the set.
Then he played six new songs about Trump after claiming he’d only written two. We were all shouting ‘play one we know’ and ‘Sit down’ but he ignored us and tortured us with indulgent political songs that are never going to be hits. We gave up and left. Just as we got back to the campsite, we heard the first lines of ‘Laid’. His dancing was awesome, and I admired his commitment to the baggy jean look of 1990 but wouldn’t go and see him again.
The Charlatans were even worse. I’ve seen them play many times and enjoyed it, but this year Tim sang slowed down versions of classics like ‘Spronston Green’ and ‘The Only One I Know’ whilst doing dodgy hip thrusts. I remember my feet not touching the floor at their previous gigs. This time my feet were firmly planted on someone else’s Boden picnic blanket which they’d set out very near the front and refused to move.
On the way back we walked past Solonge but I don’t know who she is and I’m not a 15 year old girl. Songs like ‘Don’t touch my hair’ aren’t really my bag. No one would want to touch mine having not washed it for so long.
The Vaccines were similarly vacuous. The lead singer had surgery on his vocal chords in 2012 which obviously didn’t work as he croaked his way through the set, while we all watched nervously in case he wouldn’t finish. I’d have preferred he gave up, called us all middle-class wankers and walked off, rather than struggle through, trying not to cry, but that’s just me.
I wouldn’t want to be the support band for the Killers, who were awesome, obviously. The problem was, Latitude had obviously blown their budget on one big band, meaning all the others looked worse in comparison.
The other problem was unless you got your space five hours before (which meant watching the Vaccines and then not going to comfort yourself with chips and beer) you might as well have listened to it from your tent. That said, me and the girls danced away from five miles back. We couldn’t hear Brandon singing, but lots of dads with bad voices did their best.
My best bands were the Idles who did a fantastic angry set in the BBC tent on Sunday afternoon with lots of swearing and guitar thrashing and songs about poverty and depression. They followed Sleeper who were so good I cried. She was owning the stage and she’s 52 I’m a nun.
People wise, for every thirty middle-class, precious parenting, vegan arseholes we met (overheard at Latitude 2018 “Be careful on the scramble net Terripin, take your time”), we made ten really great new friends who we plan to camp with again next year.
Yes, I am going back. For the pink sheep and the food and the odd moment of magic when a whole crowd roars along in unison.
We came home, happen, bitten, sunburnt and full of joy for life, spilling glitter all the way to the car. I recommend Latitude to anyone who loves good food, theatre, poetry, upcoming bands, glitter and slightly middle-class people wearing Birkenstocks.