From virtual reality to thought-provoking cabaret, there's more to the Suffolk shindig than Mumford & Sons.
- Exclusive NME offer: Save £10 on Amazon Music Unlimited plans with code NME10
You could say that about any festival nowadays, of course, but the genteel Suffolk knees-up goes further than most in its bid to keep you entertained. Admittedly the Poetry and Literature tents have now merged to form the all-encompassing Speakeasy, which seems a shame, but there’s still plenty of experimental, diverse and unexpected stuff to cram into your eyes and earholes at Henham Park. Come one, come all, to explore the greatest non-musical experiences at Latitude Festival 2017…
Let’s get fucking punted!
Yes, a lovely lake runs through Henham Park and you, dear friends of Latitude 2017, may mess about in a boat while a steward in a hi-vis jacket gently paddles you through the water and tries to keep eye contact to a minimum. There’s also a bit where you can swim in the lake, but this year it was closed off after the first day due to “safety reasons”. Ominous, quite ominous.
See some thought-provoking cabaret!
‘Sexy’, a one-woman show on the Theatre Stage, sees Bristol-based writer and performer Vanessa Kissuule dissect the slippery concept of sexiness, which she feels is complicated by her identity as a black woman. Kissuule raps a scornful, searing version of Sir Mixalot’s 1992 sleazathon ‘Baby Got Back’, explains that she feels she can’t cut loose in a club without being objectified and says: “It’s interesting, isn’t it, that I have a booty when everyone just has an arse.” She enters the stage in her underwear and ends the show fully clothed, by which time, ironically, she seems much more exposed.
Live in a virtual world!
Or, at the very least, dip into one for five minutes. Over at In The Woods, a beatific stretch of hillside woodland that plays host to all manner of fantastic festival weirdness, there’s a hut that contains a virtual reality headset. It’s called ‘Simple Misunderstanding’ and recreates life as someone who’s hard of hearing. Your senses are overwhelmed by mixed-up sounds – for instance, background noise in a bustling restaurant rushes to the fore – and overlapping, muffled conversations are combined with corresponding dialogue text that zooms at the screen. You’ve probably felt, erm, disoriented at a festival before, but never like this.
Get a risky haircut!
Festivals are no longer punishing endurance tests that force you to repeatedly cross boundaries of personal hygiene until you realise you’ll never quite recover the dignified, competent citizen you once were. You can get a short back-and-sides at Latitude, for example, in exchange for a small donation. Speaking to NME as he whips a pair of clippers round a man named Ben’s head, moustachioed barber Felix explains: “Sometimes people can have an expectation that needs lowering very slightly. As good a barber as I might be, we are in the middle of a forest.” Ben remains undimmed in his quest for an extremely cheap haircut.
Watch some sort-of monks chanting in the woods!
The Arbonauts wear stripy yellow smocks, massive collars and sheets of transparent, bell-shaped plastic. Chanting in unison, these monk-like figures start to twirl around at approximately the speed of a doner kebab, a ritual they treat onlookers to once a day. According to the Arbonauts’ website, they “create site-specific performances that explore the collision of context and experience, making intuitive work that defies categorisation, challenging the meeting point of theatre, dance and installation”. Looked suspiciously like a bunch of people arsing about in a field, to be honest. Ain’t no shame in it – that’s what we all came here for.
Pretend you can stomach Russian vodka!
To the Dacha, a traditional Russian country cottage replete with Russian dolls stacked on rickety shelves and shots of paint-stripper vodka for a quid a pop. There are performances from Russian punk bands, Balkan DJs and screenings of black-and-white silent movies. “In terms of alternative spaces, there’s nothing like this at Latitude,” claims Dacha boss Josephine Burton. “It’s the most alternative place at [the festival].” This theory remains tested, but it’s the also the only place you can get a shot for a quid, so let’s give Josephine the benefit of the doubt.
Enjoy some focus-grouped comedy!
Comedians Jo Griffith and Lola Stephenson present ‘Focus On’, three unrelated sketches – posh bridesmaids, inept funeral directors and unremarkable parkour enthusiasts – under the conceit that the audience is a focus group that will decide which jokes score and which ones flop. “Was the deceased a fan of cabaret?” they ask as funeral directors, “because there is the option of Burlesque dancers after 9pm.” If there’s anywhere you can book funeral cabaret, it’s probably Latitude.