In an industry crying out for gender equality, women steal the show at Latitude 2019.
Standing on Latitude Festival’s main stage in the sprawling Obelisk Arena and basked in the evening sun, Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry pauses to acknowledge the incredible achievement of women across the weekend. She laughs at the often-repeated lie that there aren’t female artists strong enough to take on headline duties.
Gender diversity on line-ups has become an increasingly prominent issue – something we researched in-depth for our recent State of Play report – and this year Latitude Festival have tackled it head-on. The festival’s main stage on the Sunday alone boasts six out of seven acts with female leads (we’re counting The Kingdom Choir’s Karen Gibson here), headlined by the effortlessly cool Lana Del Rey.
Freya Ridings performing at Latitude 2019.
It’s indicative of Latitude’s inclusive atmosphere, one that carries a bubbling activist undertone beneath its carefree exterior. Stages welcome empowering, often profound presentations, workshops and keynote speeches on diversity; the Cabaret stage hosts a range of LGBTQ+ celebrations – not least our favourite Duckie returning for its umpteenth year – and the massive Comedy Arena witnesses more than a few sideways glances at political leaders both here and across the pond. Special mention here to the brilliant Katherine Ryan who rounds off her Glitter Room run with an impassioned early morning set.
This mixture of self-power, celebration and intimacy dominates all performances. Friday night Obelisk Arena headliner George Ezra literally transforms the main stage into a living room, with fans young and old calling out for his multitude of catchy hits during a set that invites one of the biggest singalongs to Blame It On Me. It’s a moment only rivalled by Saturday stand-ins Stereophonics and their anthemic Dakota.
Lana Del Rey offers a more subdued but equally exhilarating experience, and one that transports the lofty hedonism of West Coast California to the Suffolk field. News that her new album is set to drop next month is met with a ground-shaking cheer, as she pauses to meet the fans who have stood front and centre since The Kingdom Choir opened the stage hours earlier, just waiting for their idol.
Enigmatic performers appears to be the name of the game across Latitude Festival. Jenny Lewis, formerly of Rilo Kiley and since having established herself as one of the most accomplished voices in country-pop, stands tall in a commanding glittery dress and sunglasses, delivering standouts from this year’s On The Line; Heads Gonna Roll, Do Si Do and Red Bull & Hennessy.
Sigrid dominates with pop-prowess on the main stage expressing her disbelief at the size of the crowd, having performed in the comparatively intimate Sunrise Arena a few years earlier. Her hits are met with adoration by the full cross-section of the families enjoying the heatwave, but it’s the understated power of Dynamite and Never Mine that pack the biggest punch.
The Sunrise Arena this year welcomes a cataclysmic performance by stateside indie-rock veterans Foxing, who undeniably entice a new wave of fans with their atmospheric explosion of sound. And even before it’s all kicked off properly, British troubadour Frank Turner takes to escapist dream, Solas, for a surprise acoustic performance.
Arguably where Latitude Festival excels is after dark. DJs take to what seems like hundreds of stages small and large across the festival. One evening sees us take in drum and bass in the woods, unashamedly cheesy pop courtesy of Guilty Pleasures in the Comedy Arena, and an ’80s onslaught at what can only be described as a converted burger van. Structures that have acted as scenery during the day are transformed into bustling parties at night, with something available for all tastes, from bucket hat wearing teens to Prosecco-weary parents.
Latitude Festival sets itself apart with its inclusive passion and its sheer beauty. As the projected faces fade in the water fountain, and as the lake welcomes its last swimmers, 2020 is already looking as relaxing, inclusive and brilliantly empowering.
Photos by Sara Emerson
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