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Latitude is not just for grown-ups

PUBLISHED: 16:38 12 July 2011

Crowds gather at last year's Latitude Festival at Henham, near Southwold.; Photo: Nick Butcher.

Crowds gather at last year's Latitude Festival at Henham, near Southwold.; Photo: Nick Butcher.

Archant © 2010

The Latitude Festival is in a few days time and one of the event's major selling points is the huge range of activities on offer to younger guests. Emma Lee finds out more about what's in store from children's area curator Sharon Reuben.

For 11 months of the year it’s the epitome of the rural idyll – a tranquil spot where the sheep graze contentedly and the only music to be heard is the sweet sound of bird song.

But every July, Henham Park near Southwold shakes off its bucolic image and is transformed into a massive, noisy, artistic playground.

Boasting an enviable line-up of music, comedy, literature, visual arts, dance, theatre, cabaret and poetry, the Latitude Festival has become one of the biggest events on the country’s arts calendar.

Being held on July 14 to 17, some of this year’s highlights promise to include sets from Suede, Paolo Nutini, The National and local boy made good Ed Sheeran, Q and A sessions with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and the cast of the award-winning E4 show Misfits, dance from Sadlers Wells and comedy from Alan Carr and Omid Djalili.

Set on a beautiful lake, it must be one of the most picturesque settings for a festival – and probably the only one which can boast a flock of candy coloured sheep.

Showing what an important arts event Latitude has become in its short history, the Sky Arts channel will be broadcasting a two-hour show live from the festival on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

And recently it was announced that the company behind Latitude, Festival Republic, has signed a deal which means that it will be held at Henham Park for the next 15 years.

It’s something that Sharon Reuben is very excited about. She has worked with Festival Republic head honcho Melvin Benn for two decades, and she’s been involved with Latitude from the very start.

It’s Sharon who has developed one of the festival’s major selling points – the children’s programming.

As well as the arts side of the event, Latitude has been a trailblazer in providing stimulating activities for younger visitors – much more than just face painting and a bouncy castle – meaning that it is an event that all the family can go to and enjoy. It’s become the blueprint for other festivals to follow.

When curating the children’s area Sharon’s mission is not to dumb down for younger visitors, but to provide activities that reflect the festival’s ethos of inspiring and celebrating creativity – a Mini Latitude, if you like.

So this year they can enjoy music, animation, theatre shows and workshops, cookery courses, woodland adventures, knitting, customising clothes, woodcraft and the MiniMonsters Creepy Crawly Roadshow to name just a few of the activities on offer.

The children’s programming has been growing each year, and Sharon is particularly excited about something she’s been working on that will come to fruition in just over a week’s time.

This summer sees the debut of the Inbetweeners area. Aimed at teenagers, the festival has teamed up with Norwich-based Culture Works East to provide a packed schedule of exciting multimedia and music activities – and they can unleash their inner Bear Grylls and learn bushcraft, survival and conservation skills through a link-up with Greenpeace.

Sharon spoke to Life Matters from a windy Worthy Farm where she was getting ready for Glastonbury.

Many would envy her job – she basically spends the summer on the road going from festival to festival.

After Glastonbury and Latitude her itinerary also includes the Electric Picnic, the Big Chill, Reading and Leeds and in November she’ll be over in the States for Festival Republic’s new event, Orlando Calling.

“I’ve been aware in the last few years that some age groups are served very well, but the older kids want something different,” Sharon said. “And I’ve had a few ideas in my mind for a while. There’s two areas to it – one side is being run by Greenpeace, which is the bushcraft adventure stuff – there’s tree climbing and building dens.

“Then the other side is music and media workshops,” she continued. “The workshops are run by industry professionals, and it will give them the chance to do something quite original.”

Culture Works East will be at Latitude with Access to Music, who will be bringing their mobile professional recording and video studio the Rockhopper along.

They will also be offering Latitude young reviewers master classes, where youngsters can go out and review and photograph sets, with the help of industry professionals, then upload their critical and creative verdicts to the web.

“We are doing Culture Works taster sessions on the Thursday evening,” said Sharon. “They can come along and look at the studio and sign up. There will be between 12 and 15 workshops a day. Half of them media and half of them music – anything from designing a comic to creating a ringtone.

“I really like working with local organisations where possible. And a lot of these organisations work with kids all the time, so they’ve done their research with a lot of teenagers and they know what they like.”

Sharon says that Latitude is particularly special to her.

“I’ve worked with Melvin for 20 years. Latitude means a lot to us, and signing the 15-year lease was exciting,” she said.

“The nice thing about Latitude is the site is big enough for there to be lots of hidden treasures, but not so big you can’t get a feel for it. I’ve been going to Glastonbury for more than 15 years and there are still places I haven’t seen. The whole festival is such a joy.”

Latitude is at Henham Park near Southwold from Thursday, July 14 to Sunday, July 17. For the latest line-up visit www.latitudefestival.co.uk. And don’t miss coverage in the Evening News and online at www.en24.co.uk

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