Only really second to inadequate toilet facilities, a major problem of going to festivals is choosing what do to next, particularly when there are clashes between some really exciting events – and when there is as much choice and variety as demonstrated at the Latitude Festival, Suffolk’s annual celebration of music, comedy and arts, this problem is made considerably worse. Now in its 12th year, the problem is showing no sign of slowing down. Here’s our review of the second day (of four) of Latitude Festival 2017, where we once again packed in another 14 different shows over roughly 12 hours, including slices of theatre, film and science in addition to the essential music and comedy.
Latitude Festival is well known (and award-winning) for being family-friendly; the arena includes three areas dedicated to family entertainment areas – the Kids’ Area, the Inbetweeners’ Area and the Enchanted Garden. However, despite this, the majority of acts are really only suitable for adults. Frequently the poetry or comedy content in the Speakeasy – such as Robin Ince‘s frankly dull Festival Shambles – was unnecessarily harsh or sweary, as were pretty much all of the acts in the hugely popular Comedy Tent, with the Saturday line-up including the outrageous Joel Dommett, the funny-but-world-beaten Andrew Maxwell, and the hilarious, sharp but very coarse Richard Herring. However, occasionally there were (slightly) more appropriate performers – such as the total comedy genius and ventriloquist Nina Conti. If your idea of a ventriloquist act is the sort of tacky performer that appeared on TV in 1980s, then her performance would have blasted those memories straight out of the water. Her show – which skillfully worked funny post-modern character work with audience participation with her ridiculously good ventriloquism skills – was innovative and utterly hysterical.
Those seeking more family-friendly material needed to visit locations away from the more popular stages, to areas such as the Faraway Forest, where Unlimited Theatre performed their brilliant show, “How I Hacked My Way Into Space”. which told the hilarious true story of how the theatre company’s artistic director, Jon Spooner, managed to chat to astronaut Tim Peake, and get a miniature version of himself into space. Emerging from a specially converted shed wearing a bright orange spacesuit, accompanied by dramatic music, along with smoke and lighting effects, Jon shared his genuine joy of space exploration, and told his delightful story to an enthralled audience. Aimed primarily for children, this inspiring show was very enjoyable for people of all ages.
Not far away from the Faraway Forest was the Wellcome Trust Arena, which saw various interesting talks and shows relating to improving health. One of these saw Professor Simon Baron-Cohen in conversation with Adam Feinstein to discuss ‘Neurodiversity’, and the science behind autism. Of particular interest to the many families with members on the autistic spectrum, it was gentle, informative, supportive and most of all inspiring to those who needed help. It was so interesting, it led us to have an exclusive interview with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen to further discuss autistic diagnosis for adults.
Also of potential interest to festival-goers who don’t just do the headline comedy and music acts was film director Paul Greengrass in conversation with Mark Kermode in the Music & Film Arena. Known for being loud and opinionated, Mark did his level-best to keep the conversation fun and entertaining, but unfortunately Paul is in no way a raconteur, so this show became disappointingly rather dull and strictly for serious film enthusiasts only.
A more popular element of any festival is discovering some great new music you haven’t heard before – and Latitude being Latitude, this can happen watching the main stages (depending on your age!) as well in the little performance areas tucked away in some hidden corner of the festival. For example, neither of us had ever seen the hugely popular folk rockers Mumford and Sons play before, nor the critically acclaimed Glass Animals, both of whom very much owned the Obelisk Arena, playing to packed audiences. Although playing to considerably fewer people, equally good in my mind were the gentle folk-based tunes of Westerman, whose acoustic performance very much suited the serene atmosphere of the relaxing SOLAS area; the punk-funk original tunes of Robot Mountain in the Faraway Forest; and Mosa Wild, who demonstrated that the DIY presents the Alcove Stage is the perfect place to discover an excellent up-and-coming rock band.
Those intending to find truly “adult” entertainment at the festival would – we suspect – have been seeking out Richard DeDomenici‘s “Live Art Tent of Ill Repute”, in the Faraway Forest. And it did indeed take some hunting, as the art installation was a literally tiny two-man tent very much hidden away in the corner of the forest. It was also a tad disappointing, as despite the promise of ‘live art’, the piece consisted of pre-recorded and edited ‘highlights’ of a couple performing obviously simulated sex acts projected as silhouettes onto the side of the very small tent. It wasn’t clear if it was meant to be shocking (which it wasn’t), voyeuristic (which it also wasn’t) or a celebration of the act of love (which it really wasn’t).
All in all, the day was generally a tad disappointing, which was a bit of a surprise considering it was the most popular day of the festival, having completely sold out. With only four highlights out of fourteen shows, Day Three was a definite drop in quality, compared Day One and Day Two. Would things improve for the final day of Latitude Festival 2017? Find out what happened in our review of Day Four.