Latitude geared up for 'extra special' return with 40,000 to attend
- Credit: Danielle Booden
The return of 40,000 festival-goers to Latitude will be "extra special" after the "trauma" of the pandemic, the organiser has vowed.
Melvin Benn said there will be few changes to the festival, which is due to take place days after the scheduled end of social distancing restrictions, with those attending required to either be double vaccinated or have a negative lateral flow test.
Latitude Festival will be held with a full capacity audience from Tuesday, July 22, until July 25 with headliners Wolf Alice, The Chemical Brothers, Bastille and Bombay Bicycle Club performing.
Mr Benn said: "What a joy it is to be standing in one of the most beautiful fields in England where a festival will be taking place.
"In three weeks today, we will have 40,000 people on site for probably the first proper festival taking place anywhere in the world with proper camping.
"Latitude is always a wonderful festival, but to be back after such a traumatic time will make it extra special for everyone involved.
"It will be quite an emotional moment for me and I think it will be emotional for the music industry at large."
Mr Benn, who said a number of MPs and ministers will be attending the festival, said it was time to return to normal after more than a year of restrictions and event cancellations.
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He said: "It has been a traumatic year on all sorts of levels, especially the friends and relatives we have lost. The economy has suffered and I have lost every bit of my business' turnover.
"In comparison to what has been going on with the virus, it has not been the most important matter, but now the government and the NHS have got it more under control it is time for us to begin to get back to living our lives as we used to."
Mr Benn, speaking as festival structures started to go up at the leafy Henham Park estate near the Suffolk coast, vowed it will be a “safe event”.
He said: "In terms of changes for Covid, those on site will see very little difference, although there will be more hand sanitiser than before.
"Most things will be done in advance of the festival, whether you're double vaccinated or have had a negative lateral flow test.
"If everyone in the environment is Covid-clear, then the ability to mix poses no significant risk of spreading the virus.
"That means that if you’re jumping up and down, waving your arms around, having a hug with somebody, you know that that person that you’re enjoying the music, theatre or dancing with have also tested clear of Covid at the same time, so it provides that security and safety that everybody’s looking for.”
Through his company Festival Republic, Mr Benn has been involved in a number of pilot and test events ahead of lockdown restrictions being eased, including an event at Sefton Park, in Liverpool, and Download Festival last month.
Latitude will be “largely cashless” this year, as were the previous two trial events.
He said: "I think the earlier events have been a huge success, and we have got incredible data from the Sefton Park one.
"The scientist who worked on that is coming to Latitude too to talk on the Live Podcasts stage.
"There have been no adverse results from them.
"The key lesson is to ensure everyone there is Covid-clear.
“I’m spending more time talking to government ministers and Department for Culture, Media and Sport officials than I’m talking to bands and managers and agents at the moment.
"They’re fully aware and the truth is there are a number of ministers and MPs coming to the event, and who come to the event as members of the general public, so they know exactly what it is."
He added results from last month’s Download Festival are not yet available but there had been “no alarm calls” since the event, 11 days ago.
Performer's joy at return
Suffolk teenager Gabby Rivers will be returning to the festival for the third time, having performed on her college's stage in 2018 and 2019.
She said: "I am really, really excited, and I can't believe I'm playing.
"I love Latitude so much. It's such a magical festival and I have been coming here since I was eight with my family, so to now be playing it is incredible.
"I definitely found it tough during the first lockdown. I had writers' block, but by the second I got my head down and have been writing so many new songs which I can't wait to get out there.
"I had a few socially distanced gigs last summer so they weren't the same, as much as it was really good to perform again, so I can't wait for Latitude to begin."