Fans get into the mood for Latitude

PUBLISHED: 10:43 19 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:55 05 July 2010

THE purple sheep calmly munched the grass, and the strains of British Sea Power mingled with the voice of poet Carol Ann Duffy and the jokes of Simon Evans.

THE purple sheep calmly munched the grass, and the strains of British Sea Power mingled with the voice of poet Carol Ann Duffy and the jokes of Simon Evans.

It could only be the Latitude festival, back at Henham Park, for the third year.

For thousands of people it was the perfect indie-rock festival, or perhaps an erudite arts festival, or perhaps a bit of both.

Only the weather was not everything festival-goers might have hoped for. Grey clouds scudded across the sky and the occasional shower fell, although mostly the rain held off.

The Latitude daisy motif was everywhere: on the toilets, around the main stage and even on the odd pair of wellies. Not that wellies were really needed - Henham Park is a well-drained site, with just the odd muddy patch coming nowhere near Glastonbury proportions - but they were a popular choice of footwear all the same. Traditional green wellies were definitely out, and instead there were floral designs, chocolate patterns, camouflage and even artistically mismatched pairs, as well as the daisy-patterned ones.

Singer-songwriter Beth Orton, back after having a baby girl 18 months ago, proved the perfect act for a laid-back Latitude afternoon. She told jokes (What did the inflatable teacher say to the inflatable boy in the inflatable school? - You've let me down, you've let yourself down, you've let the whole school down) - which were not particularly funny, but no-one seemed to mind. Her soulful voice drifted across the grass as hundreds of people sat back and got in the mood for a weekend of music and entertainment.

Comic Ross Noble was one of the most popular acts yesterday and though the comedy tent was nowhere near big enough, the sound system was at least better than last year. His impressive, apparently improvised act was rounded off with a bizarre conga around the site, which burnt itself out in front of a vegan food stall.

Latitude is the most middle-class of festivals, with the Royal Shakespeare Company and authors like AL Kennedy, Jon Ronson and Iain Banks alongside the music. There is children's entertainment, and Radio 4 is one of the event's partners. Yesterday, Just A Minute and Stories With Latitude were recorded, with another episode of both to come over the weekend, as well as Poetry Please and Loose Ends.

But there still had to be a bit of slumming it: the daisy-painted toilets were stinking by yesterday afternoon, and there were inevitable queues, although mostly these were manageable.

The festival has grown over the three years it has been in existence, with this year's capacity of 25,000 a full 5,000 higher than last year and double what it was in 2006. But those who were there were full of praise for its intimate feel, especially compared with big festivals like Glastonbury.

Corinne Sayers, 32, from Dartford, said: “It is really good. It has got the same chilled feeling as last year. I am looking forward to the Foals, Lykke Li, Elbow and Blondie.”

Jon Richards, 40, from Wimbledon, said: “It is excellent. It is a lot more casual than Glastonbury. It is easier to get round and easier to see everything, you can walk around the site in about an hour.

“The comedy is fantastic, I think the comedy is better than the music. You could just stay in the comedy tent all day.”

Lisa Cooper, 31, from Kent, said: “It is much more chilled than other festivals. There are children around, which is nice.”

Ali Hawkins, 34, from Tooting, London, said: “Sigur Ros will be the most awesome band this weekend. I am here for Franz Ferdinand too, and for Kyte. It is nice that it is small and easy to get round.”

Stuart Parkins, 31, from New Cross, London, said: “The whole arts side of it is good. It is nice that it is not just music.”

Still to come are the Icelandic band Sigur Ros, best known for the theme tune to the BBC's Planet Earth, as well as Blondie, New York indie-rockers Interpol, and comics like Bill Bailey, Lee Mack and Omid Djalili.

As long as the rain holds off, it promises to be an unforgettable weekend.

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