Latitude Festival: The Big Preview

Emily DennisThe stages are up, the sheep have been painted and the beer has arrived. As Latitude festival opens its gates to the public today Emily Dennis provides a rundown of the possible highlights.Emily Dennis

Over the last few years it has grown from a fledgling music event to one of the UK's top festivals.

And many famous names set to per-form at this year's Latitude festival, the event is generating a real buzz.

Taking place in the stunning setting of the meadows and lakes at Henham Park Estate, near Southwold, the fourth festival, opening today, will feature more than 700 performers.

Since this year's headliners were announced in March, music websites have been awash with fans eagerly commenting about the event and the big names that have been secured.

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One of the most eagerly anticipated performances must surely be a rare and exclusive solo set from the lead singer of one of the world's most respected bands, Radiohead's Thom Yorke.

Radiohead have released seven albums since 1993 with Ok Computer often hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time, so it is a real coup for Latitude to have secured Yorke to play in the Obelisk Arena at noon on Sunday.

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This year's headline acts are electro pop group Pet Shop Boys and 80s disco diva Grace Jones, alongside rock stalwarts Pretenders, indie rock bands Editors and Doves and synth pop queen Little Boots.

Organisers have said that, despite the difficult economic climate, tickets have been in demand and the event is expected to be a sell-out by today.

Aside from the big name headliners there is an emphasis on showcasing up-and-coming talent and organisers are also keen to stress that the event is about far more than just music.

The doors have been flung open to embrace every style of music and art imaginable, and this year's event boasts a full programme of perform-ances from the worlds of poetry, theatre, comedy and literature.

The festival's founder Melvin Benn said that he believed Latitude's success lay in its wide-ranging appeal to all ages and tastes.

'One of the amazing things about Latitude is that it has grown by word of mouth; people come because one of their friends have recommended it and that is what really makes it very special.'

The festival has not only become one of the must-see events of the music calendar, it has also become a favourite with artists. It has emerged that Pet Shop Boys were adamant at playing Latitude after enjoying a visit as spectators last year.

As well as the main music stages, there will be arenas in poetry, litera-ture, comedy, cabaret, film and music where the line-up features fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, come-dians Frank Skinner and Jo Brand, former poet laureate Andrew Motion, as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company and Sadler's Wells.

And with the festival set to return in 2010 there is no doubt that this corner of rural Suffolk looks set to be a Mecca for music lovers for years to come.

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