After what we’ve said about Day One, Day Two and Day Three, you may be thinking that Latitude Festival is just a music and comedy festival, with perhaps a few other random shows thrown in. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong.
For a start, in addition to all the headline acts, every year there’s a family-friendly children’s area providing plenty to keep the little ones entertained – including the iconic slide – plus there’s a special section dedicated to younger teenagers named The Inbetweeners Area, featuring various fun music, film, fashion, tech, media and styling workshops. The grounds are also packed with bright, colourful market stalls; this year, the various outlets offered a huge variety of clothing, accessories, toys, and home decor to choose from, alongside opportunities to get your hair braided (or even cut), have henna tattoos applied, or even to have your body painted in glitter (for free!).
This year also saw a distinct improvement in the catering arrangements compared to previous years, with there now being a vast array of food choices available, courtesy of Street Feast, the organisers of some of London’s greatest street food markets. With delicious cuisine originating from all over the globe, from healthy vegan options right through to the downright decadent, it was almost impossible to choose between menu options. With Tibetan, Thai, Caribbean, Spanish, Mexican, Lebanese, Indian and Greek – as well as the usual burgers and stone-baked pizzas – on the menu (to mention but a few), it was easy to be fed the entire long weekend and never have the same thing twice!
Also dotted around the festival every year are arts installations and continuing demonstrations. This year featured The Virtual Theatre in the Faraway Forest, where festival-goers could experience a selection of short plays performed by Ovalhouse Theatre in virtual reality, with the aid of a VR headset. Exactly as if you were in the room during the performance, it very much demonstrated that virtual reality is the future of experiencing pre-recorded theatre.
Also in the Faraway Forest, in the Brain Hub area, the science group MetaLab, from UCL Institute of Neurology, undertook two interesting human research projects. While encouraging members of the public to chill out on beanbags under the cool shade of the forest trees, the group asked festival-goers about their awareness of physical reactions when experiencing a range of emotional states, as well as involving them in an experiment relating decision-making, memory and perception. Challenging and thought-provoking, both tasks highlighted just how important science is to Latitude Festival. With the Wellcome Trust science talks being conspicuously absent this year – despite being so popular in previous years – it was good to see such science-based events still managing to be part of this year’s line-up.
Science was also very much the focus of Space Rocks, over in the Film and Music Arena, where Hollywood actor Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, Star Trek: Discovery) and a panel of experts – including planetary scientist and Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? winner Suzie Imber, and ESA senior science advisor Mark McCaughrean – discussed the future of space exploration. Intelligent, informative, yet accessible to everyone, and ending with a brief Q&A with the audience, Space Rocks was both highly enjoyable and educational.
An audience Q&A also featured as part of festival highlight Mark Kermode in conversation with Richard Ayoade, where the popular film critic discussed all things cinema with the witty and erudite actor, director and TV presenter in the Film and Music Arena. An absolute joy from start to finish, particularly for movie fans and wannabe filmmakers.
Latitude regular Adam Buxton performed to a packed Film and Music Arena audience as well, entertaining his fans with the brilliant Bug X, the ten-year anniversary “best of” version of his popular live show. Featuring Adam’s unique take on YouTube comments on music videos, as well as some of his other favourite things in the internet, Bug X was hilarious, fast-paced silliness. Also incredibly popular was the people’s poet, rock star, fashion icon, TV and radio presenter and all-round legend John Cooper Clarke who – as the last of the big names for this year’s festival – closed the Speakeasy with his own wry observations on life, dry wit and sheer joy of word-play.
But it wasn’t all great. Theatre group Middle Child returned to Latitude this year, with their new show One Life Stand. A gritty drama directly addressing social issues, and the impact of social media, it was an ultimately depressing look at how people can easily get trapped in miserable lives. Well meaning but somewhat theatrically clumsy and unimaginative, it was very much adolescent theatre, trying too hard to be deep and meaningful, saying nothing new in a world where dialogues on human existence are abundant.
Also a tad disappointing were Phobophobes, a generic, mostly harmless rock band performing at the Sunrise Arena. Meanwhile, 90s brit pop band Sleeper – who, like The Charlatans on Friday, performed at the Obelisk Arena and sounded very much the same as they did 20+ years ago (but with fewer hit records) – were fairly bland and uneventful. More innovative and exciting musically were Kyekyeku and Ghanalogue Highlife, whose lively and funky tunes could be found entertaining the crowd at The Alcove Stage, hidden away among the trees. Energetic, fun and exciting, Kyekyeku and his band showcased their unique style of afrobeat music from their native country of Ghana, which encompassed themes of injustice and freedom while inciting revellers to dance and feel free.
Although by no means bad, the final day of Latitude Festival 2018 was less eventful than Day One, Day Two and Day Three; there was a noticeable feeling of things winding down, as the better acts were spaced about – but was still lots of enjoyment to be had. Bring on Latitude Festival 2019!