Latitude Festival: 'It's so nice to get back into the festival vibe'

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Latitude Festival site
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Last year's Latitude Festival was cancelled because of Covid. This year, about 40,000 visitors each day - who will be tested at the gates - are expected to attend

Cancelled last year because of the pandemic, this year's Latitude Festival is expected to attract about 40,000 people per day and is operating under a government event safety trial. What does the return to a "festival vibe" mean for organisers, acts and attendees?

'We all feel pretty confident about it and quite safe'

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Friends Josh Gosling and Gus Pater say they are delighted that restriction-easing has meant they can experience the "festival vibe" this year

"Since we came out of lockdown, it has been so nice to get back into the swing of things and get back into the festival vibe," says Josh Gosling, 18, who is enjoying his fourth Latitude Festival.

"It is nice to come back after missing last year. It is the first big event we've had since lockdown so it was a bit weird really with having all the crowds and mingling with people."

Image caption,
Josh Gosling, 18, and Gus Pater, 18, say a number of their group have had Covid recently which has alleviated concerns about catching the virus

Any concerns soon faded however and Mr Gosling told how he enjoyed a spell of crowd surfing on Thursday night.

"I was definitely up for it," he says.

"Quite a lot of us have already had Covid in the past couple of months," says Mr Pater. "So we all feel pretty confident about it and quite safe.

"I was fine with it [Covid], though I still can't smell anything.

"It kind of reassures me that I will be all right."

'I like how organised it is'

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Couple Chris Mitchell and Safiya Raqib are staying in the family camping area with daughters Drew, aged eight and Zaynab, nine

Couple Chris Mitchell and Safiya Raqib are staying in the family camping area with their children.

One of their daughters has already got a temporary tattoo and the pair enjoyed a dance with bubbles.

"It is just getting going," says Mr Mitchell, 44. "It was good last night - there was nice food."

It is the first time Ms Raqib has been to the festival.

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The first Latitude Festival was held in 2006

"What I like in coming is how organised it is," she says. "Particularly when it comes to the family toilets and showers. It is really good for the kids.

"I'm a teacher and I see that kids pick up on the anxiety - it's good for them to be free and enjoy things."

"It is really relaxed and quite open so you can see your children."

Both Mr Mitchell and Ms Raqib say they had no concerns about attending the festival.

"There were tests to get in and so many people have been vaccinated," says Mr Mitchell. "I'm not worried, no."

'It is the thing I do, it is part of my identity'

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Responsible for booking all of the acts, Ed Lilo found the cancellation of the 2020 festival like losing part of his "identity"

Ed Lilo, 36, books all of the music for the festival.

He found the cancellation of the 2020 festival extremely difficult personally.

"It is not just something I do for fun," he says. "It is the thing I do, it is part of my identity. You just have to be that type of person to do something like this.

"The idea it wouldn't happen for 2020 was almost like part of my identity going, it was really difficult," he says.

"In about the second or third week of lockdown I had this reckoning that nothing had changed and these shows are not going to happen.

"I had this sinking feeling."

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Thousands of festival-goers are camping on the Henham Park site over the four day event

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This year he has been through 12 headline bands, with a number cancelling, then booking again, and then cancelling a second time on the festival.

Some bands and artists have had to cancel because they have had issues with Covid. The line-up for 2021 is the result of planning since the middle of last year.

"It has been a nightmare," he says. "But it is worth it, we are here and I think the line up is great. We've done it.

"It is always magical and I know that sounds trite. But it is, and the energy [this year] feels like that times one hundred.

"Everyone here is tested so it is safer than being out in Oxford Street [in London] or in Ipswich."

'I found it very strange being around all of these people'

Image caption,
Libby Butler is enjoying swimming at the festival

Libby Butler is spending the week camping at the Latitude Festival.

"I am a triathlete but I did not want to give up the festival," she says. "Rather than lose out on training, I've come down to the lake and got in there.

"It is really warm and it is really nice to get out there and go swimming. I've met a great bunch of people.

"I feel really safe," she says. "Everyone is very much aware that Covid is still around and everybody is being really respectful.

"It is very odd. I live on my own in a little village in the Cotswolds so there are not many people about.

"So I found it very strange in the arena last night being around all of these people.

"I'm sure that will ease off as the weekend goes on and I'll be a bit more relaxed."

'We're going to turn up and do our thing'

Image caption,
The Goa Express - (from left) Joey Stein, 23, James Douglas Clarke, 23, Naham Muzaffar, 23, Sam Launder, 23, Joe Clarke, 21 - are playing the Sunrise Arena

The Goa Express are playing the Sunrise Arena.

"It feels great," says singer guitarist James Douglas Clark. "During lockdown, we carried on working and writing and doing what we need to do."

The band played the Manchester International festival recently.

"We headlined a show two nights ago which was sold out and pretty rowdy. It was really good fun, really sweaty. It felt good to be back."

They recorded some virtual sets for Eurosonic and South By Southwest but have missed playing to live crowds.

"We're going to turn up and do our thing, and if people dig it, they dig it. It should be right fun, seeing people dancing.

"We started a band as friends, the sole purpose was to knock around with each other, and that hasn't diminished.

"If everyone else here feels safe and good about being here, then we are too."

How do you know when you're at Latitude? When the queue at the beer tent is shorter than the one for porridge.

Joking aside, it feels strange and wonderful to be back at a festival. I'm one of 40,000 people here - fewer than attended the Euro 2020 final, but twice as many as you can squeeze into London's O2 Arena.

And they're ready to party. It's only just gone midday and people are chanting at the top of their voices as A Tribe Called Quest's Can I Kick It rings out from the BBC Sounds Stage. Earlier, about 1,000 adults and children joined a disco yoga session at the Waterfront Stage.

The atmosphere is slightly giddy, as if no-one can quite believe this is happening, and the musicians are equally excited.

"I don't really know what to expect, but I'm buzzing for it," said Theo Ellis of rock group Wolf Alice, who headline the main stage tonight.

"I'm hoping the crowd's at fever pitch - because that's what it's going to feel like when I'm playing."

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