Latitude: The Spiritual Home For Arts

Latitude chief Melvin Benn reckons the festival is “the spiritual home for arts,” although it’s also handy that he’s created an event that can regularly sell out its 35,000 capacity.

Photo: Victor Frankowski

When the festival was started in 2006 at Henham Park, Southwold, a small town on the English North Sea coast where an excellent brewery had previously been the only thing to raise its profile, Benn was clearly set on creating a unique event.

The press department at Mean Fiddler Music Group, where Benn was working at the time, got fond of calling it “multi-faceted,” although that doesn’t do it justice. It’s like mixing an outdoor rock and pop music festival with the Edinburgh Fringe, then blending in the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts, more commonly called the Hay-on-Wye book festival.

What helps it work so well is an open field and wooded site that seems conducive to helping seemingly the most diverse of crowds happily rub shoulders together. The fest has earned such a credibility that it can attract a wide range of talent, which this year included Noel Gallagher’s High Flying BirdsPortishead, a dance troupe from London’s Sadler’s Wells (now Latitude regulars) and Opera North, which performed Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea” on a stage in the woods.

Ed Sheeran and Thom Yorke played “secret gigs,” or added benefits for anyone at Latitude.

Benn’s saying he and his team are very proud to have celebrated “the best Latitude Festival yet.” The other acts visiting the spiritual home for arts July 17-19 included Alt-JCaribouJames Blake, and SBTRKT.