Latitude festival starts today

Emily DennisThe stages are ready, the beer is chilled and the sheep have been given a colourful makeover. The finishing touches have been made for Latitude Festival which opens today and will see 35,000 revellers descend on a picturesque corner of Suffolk.Emily Dennis

The stages are ready, the beer is chilled and the sheep have been given a colourful makeover.

The finishing touches have been made for Latitude Festival which opens today and will see 35,000 revellers descend on a picturesque corner of Suffolk.

As campers were deciding how many pairs of wellies to take, Melvin Benn the festival's founder was ensuring preparations at the site ran smoothly.

It was a hive of activity at Henham estate, near Southwold, as workers directed lorries carrying equipment and refreshments.


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More than 700 performers will be taking part in the four-day festival including headline acts Florence and the Machine, indie pop band Belle and Sebastian, New York rock quartet Vampire Weekend and Australian electric music duo Empire of the Sun.

Other big names include popular indie band James, pop band The Feeling, world renowned violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy and Welsh superstar Tom Jones.

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The festival is now in its fifth year and tickets sold out quickly after the line-up was revealed.

Mr Benn said he was pleased with the way preparations were progressing and added that the festival's iconic coloured sheep would be back.

'The stages are up and completely ready and the sheep are being painted as we speak,' he said.

'This year we have gone for much brighter colours. We have even gone as far as employing a sheep masseur to massage the colour into the sheep.'

Mr Benn said that some changes have been made to the layout of the site this year.

The main obelisk stage is bigger and revellers will be able to sample fine dining thanks to a collaboration with the Giant Robot restaurant in Clerkenwell, London.

'We have put a really lovely restaurant where the theatre was and this is pretty much a fine-dining experience,' said Mr Benn.

'It is sit-down with proper knives and forks, waitresses and nice wine. This is the first time there has really been a proper restaurant at a festival anywhere in the UK.

'The guy who owns the restaurant is a mate of mine and we thought Latitude was a good place to offer it.

'We are doing online bookings for it and you can book when you are here. I would say that it will probably be 50pc sold out even before the festival starts.'

Mr Benn described Latitude as a 'very prestigious' music and arts festival with the Royal Opera House, Sadler's Wells and the Royal Shakespeare Company all performing.

'We have the best people in the UK performing,' he said. 'From established popular music like Florence and the Machine, Belle and Sebastian and Vampire Weekend this year we have added a bit more musical diversity with Nigel Kennedy and Tom Jones. These are huge names.'

Mr Benn agreed with critics who have called Latitude 'the thinking person's festival' and added: 'It was always the intention to have a festival that represented how I live my life. It is my baby. I would describe myself as a very proud parent. It is growing just as I wanted it to. It is the most enjoyable weekend.'

Mr Benn said the festival is worth millions to the local economy and has been embraced by the local community.

'We use quite a lot of local labour. Local farmers come and help out driving tractors. It has really ensconced itself in the community.'

In another twist organisers have this year launched the Latitude Contemporary Art (LCA) Exhibition and �10,000 LCA Award.

This year six new and emerging artists are competing for the award which will be judged by Mr Benn, broadcaster and journalist Martha Kearney and young British artist Gavin Turk.

For all the news and reviews from the festival visit www.edp24.co.uk

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