Thousands enjoying Latitude's eclectic mix

Matthew SparkesThe weather was as mixed as the array of acts on stage, but the Latitude Festival is truly under way as the thousands descending on north Suffolk prepare for a long weekend of entertainment.Matthew Sparkes

The weather was as mixed as the array of acts on stage, but the Latitude Festival is truly under way as the thousands descending on north Suffolk prepare for a long weekend of entertainment.

Today, following the torrential rain of yesterday, the feared mud bath at Henham Park, near Southwold, was thankfully nowhere to be seen.

The festival's programme began in earnest as the rain tailed off to leave nothing, but grey clouds. As the second wave of arrivals came in today, having spent the night safely behind double glazing, the sunshine emerged sporadically.

The morning was packed full of the usual eclectic mix of small and surreal acts, dotted over the large site, which occupied those waiting for the big acts of the day; Regina Spektor, Little Boots and the Pet Shop Boys.

Wandering through the forest surrounding the main site, small clusters of audience hinted at something interesting, and a closer inspection revealed increasingly surreal acts.

Everywhere you turned there was something to see - a wonderful, but ultimately hopeless feeling of how to see everything you want.

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These small shows were a welcome distraction, as were the early bands on the large stages. The Broken Family Band's lazy rock on the Obelisk Arena were the perfect way to spend half an hour in the sun, and Of Montreal's insane stage show was a spectacle, while the Poetry, Literary and Cabaret Arenas were just a short walk away for those who got restless. For many, though, the big acts were the main draw.

'I saw the Pretenders two nights ago in Shepherds Bush and they were fantastic, so I'm going to see them again,' said Fizz Annand, 45, who had travelled to Latitude for the first time from London.

She added that Chew Lips were another band to watch out for later in the evening.

Suzanne Rodger, 26, enjoying her third Latitude, said she was waiting for Regina Spektor and Vivienne Westwood in the Literary Arena, but that 'the poetry tent is always fun'.

Looking around, the variety of the festival was impressive. Not just the entertainment, but the crowd. Where else can you sit and enjoy a show between a man in a latex dress and a straw hat, and a picnicking couple with their two toddlers?

Latitude has its niche areas, like the forest full of ravers at 3am, but the main stage is where these different groups all come together, at the same time, to see the big acts. It's the common denominator.

The day was wonderfully cheerful, especially as ominous clouds had loomed over Henham Park last night, just as the bulk of the crowd arrived.

Despite the collective wishful thinking of thousands, the heavens opened and many who had finished pitching their tents retreated under canvas for a stormy night's sleep.

Some brave souls had ventured into the arena to explore the beginnings of the four-day festival, and they were not disappointed. Although the main music stages did not kick off until today, there were plenty of other sights on the first night - luckily most were under cover, out of the torrential rain.

'Thursday night was a bit of a downpour. We managed to get the tent up, and as soon as we got done the skies opened. We had to hide in the literary tent,' said Fizz. 'It's one of the big festivals now, but it is much cosier.'

Norwich-based UEA-graduate Tim Clare was one of those performers at the Literary Arena, discussing his new book We Can't All be Astronauts, while young Londoner Dockers MC took the Poetry Arena by storm with her uniquely energetic monologues.

'Once you were in a tent, it was so torrential that you stayed,' said Pam McGuffie, 39, who was now warm and dry, relaxing in a deck chair by the lake and looking out over a surreal vista that included brightly spray-painted sheep.

Worryingly, despite the great atmosphere, staff at the festival warned people to be vigilant and keep an eye out for ticket touts and thieves.

For all the best news, reviews and gossip from this year's festival - and to have your say on our Latitude blog - log on to and see Monday's EDP.