It turns out that after well over a year of claustrophobic lockdowns, social isolation and the rest, the remedy we so sorely needed was being in a smelly field with thousands of strangers, watching bands and artists back to back. With Glastonbury dropping out way back in January, Latitude’s organisers held firm and fortune favoured the Suffolk festival. So with nice weather, 40,000 beaming revellers, and a career-defining set from headliners Wolf Alice, one can only hope this is the gigantic boost the UK music industry needs so desperately right now.
In another summer where many big-name festivals and events have had to make the very tough decision to sit a second year out, understandably Latitude, which always seemed confident about going ahead, received many anxious messages from those with tickets.
So when the event finally announced it had the green light, Headliner headed up the A12 for its opening Friday to see how a large-scale music festival looks in this post-Brexit, vaccinated landscape.
If the music industry, which truly has taken a brutal pounding, needed some luck, Latitude 2021 was certainly the recipient of it. In terms of timing, June was too soon for Glastonbury, whereas late-July fell into the so-called ‘freedom’ period in the UK.
As well as luck, Melvin Benn, the director of Festival Republic, is reportedly quite friendly with the UK government, which would have helped no end in getting Latitude its ‘test event’ status, in order to help event research that one can only hope will get the rest of the live music scene up and running as soon as possible.
Festival Republic also ran the Download Pilot festival, which was deemed a success. Small music venues and theatres will understandably complain they are not getting such luxurious treatment, but here’s hoping this success trickles down to those who have really struggled with closures and mixed messaging.
So to answer the question of how a festival looks in this brave new world, Latitude’s lineup poster certainly offered a lot of clues. Firstly, it’s one of the most British lineups you’ll ever see for a festival that sits happily in the tier of big festivals just below the godfather that is Glastonbury.
Let’s pray this is mainly down to travel restrictions rather than Brexit. But with news emerging about how the EU divorce is going to heavily restrict touring between Britain and the EU, a cynic might tell you to get used to it.
On arrival in the stunning surroundings of Suffolk’s Henham Park, there’s a palpable sense that people are quite overjoyed to be out of the house and the fact such an event is happening this year.
A sentiment shared by Barney Artist, who told some of the day’s earlier attendees in the BBC Sounds tent: “I promised myself I wasn’t gonna cry today!’
The emcee is one half of side-project Mr Jukes and Barney Artist with Bombay Bicycle Club’s Jack Steadman. The pair’s uplifting old school hip-hop sounds that feature bass guitar and vocals from Steadman, and Barney Artist’s ultra-positive lyrical messaging make for the perfect musical breakfast on this opening day.