Wednesday 28 July 2021

Latitude 2021

Bombay Bicycle Club on the Obelisk Stage
I arrived at Henham Park freshly double jabbed, clutching my negative lateral flow test result, a pack of FFP2 masks, and with a fair amount of nervousness about being in large crowds again. I’d book my ticket months ago with the belief that Covid rates would be low - they were last summer without a vaccine so it seemed logical that there’d be less to worry about this time round. In reality, rates were soaring and it felt foolhardy to be throwing myself into the fray. I needn’t have worried however, the crowds were considerate, it never felt unsafe, and the requirement to re-test on the Saturday morning provided some reassurance.

Walking through the festival site on Thursday evening, already bustling with activity, I felt the sheer joy of once again being surrounded by live performance and people who had missed it every bit as much. Everybody seemed to be getting into the spirit of the event immediately, and performers repeatedly commented throughout the weekend how amazing and surreal it felt being back onstage once more.

The Vaccines performing on the BBC Sounds Stage

Latitude is so much more than its music, with a brilliant comedy line-up, talks, dance and yoga classes, craft workshops, and even a full moon ritual ceremony. There were sign language interpreters at many of the events which was a welcome sight. I was struck by the broad sweep of ages in the audience, from tiny babies to grandparents and everyone in between. It was a chilled, friendly festival with everyone enjoying themselves in their own way without bothering others.

Late night entertainment in the Trailer Park
Some highlights for me were learning various dances through the decades, Katherine Ryan on the Women’s Prize for Fiction podcast, a surprisingly emotional event, Sophie Duker on the comedy stage, the surprise appearance of The Vaccines, and Kaiser Chiefs on the Obelisk stage. There were also plenty of brilliant new (to me) musicians, poets, and comedians, and I came back with a long list of performers to look up and support. Every night also offered some cheesy disco tunes to dance the night away to after the headliners had left the stage.

All in all, a fun, varied weekend which allowed for an escape from the grim realities of the outside world. It wasn’t entirely free from challenges, however, with a number of artists having to pull out last minute because of positive test results or the need to isolate. It was nonetheless a great coming together of people passionate about the arts having a blast and losing themselves in the music under a mercifully clear sky. Festival Republic succeeded in putting on a brilliant event despite all the uncertainty leading up to it.

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