Hovis in Wonderland at the 2008 Latitude Festival
The rolling landscape of Henham Park gives Latitude the ambience of a country fair, fully complemented by Hooray Henrys in cords, tweed jackets, flat caps, pipes and wellies. And that’s just the women boom boom! (OK pedant, Hooray Henriettas!). The most middle-class, middle-aged, politically anodine sell-out according to ageing punkster John Robb two years ago, has built on this unique selling point to create a niche event which actually sells out. Bring Grandad, I did. Cardigan and slippers? No problem. This is a real arts fest not just a music feast. Literature, film, theatre, cabaret, comedy, dance, poetry take up far more column inches in the comprehensive Festival handbook than music.
The Poetry tent (or “Arena” as I was dutifully informed by Caroline of Festival Republic, the promoters) organised by Luke Wright, featured over seventy readers over four days. Luke seems to have dropped his campaign to be next poet laureate (as he been got at by the poetry police or was he just being respectful to top billing readers Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffy?) However he should get a gong or even a gold-plated bong for living and breathing poetry and for sharing opportunity with others. He put on the heavyweights and he put on the novices. He compered until he was hoarse, and he did a number of sets that demonstrated his growing maturity as a writer and performer. I won’t say every form of poetic style was catered for. It was a performance driven event with a lot of younger skilled performers who fell back on the Mike Skinner teenage confessions/ street wars style, but many of them were from the South East so why not? There was that coterie of seasoned performers who are moving up the establishment ladder through collectives such as Aisle 16 and the Urbanian Quarter. There were performers who were an unchallenging pleasure to listen to, being mature and confident enough to stick to what they do best, masters of the poetic cabaret, John Hegley, Attila the Stockbroker, Rachel Pantechnicon, and Elvis McGonagall. And then there were some well presented, sensitively reflective and minutely observed slices of life from skilled writers such as Adrian Mitchell, Aiofe Mannix and Daljit Nagra. Perhaps the only thing missing was more New World voices. It’s a hard call when you heard Saul Williams and Patti Smith perform 40 minute sets to 100 privileged people in 2006.Read more