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Review: Latitude Festival, in Henham Park, near Southwold soars in the sun

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You know you’ve made a good festival decision when you find yourself in a tent at 1am with Charlotte Church hollering Stayin’ Alive inches from your face.

As any festival veteran knows, the main stages get the obvious names - but if you want to find the good stuff you need to read the small print on the poster and wander a bit further afield.

That’s especially true at Latitude, where the compact, easily-navigable site means there’s no excuse for not exploring all it has to offer.

Charlotte Church at the Sunrise Arena
Charlotte Church at the Sunrise Arena

Don’t fancy the headliners? Fine, how about some Brazilian funk on one of the tucked-away Trailer Park stages? Or how about catching avant-punk queen Nuha Ruby Ra entertaining a tiny - and occasionally terrified - crowd out in the woods?

It was in that spirit of adventure that we found ourselves in the front row as the artist formerly known as the Voice of an Angel powered her way through an eclectic set of cover versions, backed by an eight-piece band, at the Sunrise Arena in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It was one of the highlights of a Latitude blessed, as it so often is, with glorious weather and a friendly crowd.

Little Simz on the main stage
Little Simz on the main stage

The opening night’s highlights included a secret acoustic set by the fast-rising Self Esteem and arena-filling Phoebe Bridgers headlining the BBC Sounds stage - belying her sensitive singer-songwriter roots by stage-diving into the crowd.

Her set at times risked being drowned out by Lewis Capaldi on the Obelisk Arena, with the day’s biggest crowd bellowing the words of his best-known song, Somebody To Love, back to him.

Some younger festival-goers made their own entertainment
Some younger festival-goers made their own entertainment

Saturday saw the crowds on site swell, with Shed Seven pulling off one of the surprise packages of the whole festival, drawing a big crowd to the main stage and reminding everyone just how many festival sing-alongs they have up their sleeve. It was reminiscent of Supergrass’s performance in the same slot last year.

The line-up was hit with a couple of cancellations, with both Beth Orton and James Arthur pulling out of their slots - the former replaced by Brighton indie veterans Sea Power.

The headliners both drew big audiences, with Groove Armada packing out the BBC Sounds stage and Foals visibly grateful for the numbers who turned out for them at the Obelisk.

Sunday was initially a more sedate affair before things ramped up with performances by Afghan Whigs and Manic Street Preachers belying their decades in the game.

It was a clash of old versus new for the headliners, with Fontaines DC up against Snow Patrol as Latitude closed in style.

It’s been a tough period for festivals, with market saturation, the cost of living crisis and lingering Covid fears creating challenging conditions for organisers.

It’s good to see Latitude in such seemingly good health, helped no doubt by the loyalty it has built up over its 16-year history. Here’s to 2023.