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The music festival is one of the cultural phenomena of the last twenty years. Those of us who are old enough still remember a time when festivals were small affairs, arranged by a farmer in his unused field, or barn, or the unreasonably large grounds of the wackier members of the landed gentry. They were thrown together at the last minute, the musicians just as clueless as the festivalgoers, the atmosphere one of happy, ignorant, inebriated bliss.
Anyone who has set foot in an English field this summer knows that this is no longer the case. Festivals are big business, small towns in their own right – ranks of Portaloos, ‘high streets’ flanked by eateries and shops, even their own social sects and unpredicted trends. There are festivals that cater only to blues and roots, festivals for long-haired metallists, festivals for the upwardly mobile and the young-at-heart.
And there are festivals, like Latitude, that welcome writers and artists from every discipline, not just the low-slung guitar heroes and wannabe teen idols. Litro is presenting a series of discussions between some of the most exciting contemporary writers at this year’s Latitude festival, and we’ll also be filing occasional reports from the festival on who’s hot and who’s not, bringing you the buzz without having to set foot on the well-trodden grass of this particular field in Suffolk. With us we’ll have James Miller, Luke Brown, Patrick Flanery, Kate Williams, Ben Fergusson and Ian Kelly.
But even before Latitude officially started, there were teasers of what was to come. Those who endured the traffic jams and delays on Thursday evening found themselves at a festival that was just beginning to wake up, the food stalls wafting their flavours across the fields, the stages just starting to crackle into life. Miles Hunt of The Wonder Stuff regaled crowds with his stories of the band’s early years (Miles’s short essay on the books that influenced him can be read in our Words & Music series). A ballsy duo called Johnny & the Baptist packed the Literary Stage with songs about steamy liaisons among the bookshelves of a library, as well as everyone’s favourite villain this year – UKIP. Young festival goers found their own parties among the shaded corners of the Faraway Forest. Older music fans took their bearings, and maybe even tried to get an early night.
As Latitude gets into full swing we’ll report back on the hits and misses of Latitude 2014. as well as our own events in the intimate surroundings of the Shed of Stories. For now, though, you’ll find us at the bar – the latest citizens of a town called Latitude.