Breaking Bad, Dracula, Hanif Kureshi, Latitude, Latitude Festival, literature, live lit, Luke Wright, Mike Figgis, pink sheep, poetry, Portishead, Rob Auton, short stories, Suffolk, The Sopranos, The Wire, Thom Yorke
I’m just back from Latitude Festival and this year was certainly one to remember. Of the party I was with, one almost teen was carted off in an ambulance due to a crushing incident at Catfish & the Bottlemen and another left in an ambulance due to a perforated appendix. Before that everything was great! Thankfully both kids are fine and on their way to recovery. This (and events in the news) has made me aware of how precious and breakable our almost growns are. I spent much of this Latitude hanging out with my thirteen year old son. We went a day after my husband and youngest because he was on a school trip to Amsterdam. We caught the train to Diss on Friday and found ourselves sitting opposite Hanif Kureshi. He seemed at bit grumpy so I didn’t ask for a recap on his thoughts about Creative Writing MAs; instead, we just interrupted his sleep by eating crisps and watching Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Junior) on the iPad. It’s much easier by train, no massive traffic jams just a coach from Diss to the Orange Gate and you’re in.
I have blogged from the festival before, it is such a relaxed, happy event and it helped that the sun shone and the sheep were neon. The poetry tent rocked it this year. Every time I walked by people were spilling out of the edges, craning to listen to beat box poets, sound and word artists and the politically angry. Luke Wright’s poem/play , What I Learned From Johnny Bevan, was outstanding, heartfelt, personal and yet political with a capital P. Like all good art it wasn’t perfect, it was bit rough around the edges, but it said more about the current state British politics than a thousand episodes of Question Time. There were lots of big names this year, Michael Rosen, John Cooper Clarke, Simon Armitage but the crowds came for the lesser-known too, and I managed to catch, and laugh along with, Emma Jones and Rachel Pantechnichon but missed out on Rob Auton on Sunday because I had to go home. Rob Auton is my poetry hero, I saw him at Latitude a few years ago and used his book with the reading group at BHT, you should buy his book.
I was a bit disappointed in the Literary Arena, maybe most of the good stuff was on Thursday and Sunday when I wasn’t there. There was a lot of debate and hardly any short story, which is odd for an arts festival as short stories are perfect for dropping in on and listening for ten minutes. My writing career highlight was having a short story read here by Word Theatre a couple of years ago. More short story Latitude. Interestingly the best advice on creativity was given in the Film Tent by Mike Figgis. After entertaining us with tales of working with Nic Cage, someone asked him if we were in the golden age of television. No, came the emphatic answer. The writing is good, The Sopranos was great, so was The Wire, but some shows start off with a great first season from one author and by the end are produced by a roundtable of writers all trying to get as much in as possible. You have to stick to the rules of your original story. He cited Breaking Bad, watchable as it was, by the end the interesting original character was transformed into a superman who had been in remission an unbelievable number of times and could create a car with a selective machine gun that only shot baddies and not him or Jesse. I have to say he makes a very good point.
Saturday was crazy busy and broiling. Little pink lambs gambolled by a reed bank and the sound of music reverberated from all sides. We meandered around a lot not really watching anything for long, drank ice cold fresh lemonade, bumped into friends from Brighton and got chased by a grass man in the Faraway Forest. Night fell and Portishead transported us back to the 90s on the Obelisk stage and sounded more current than most of what I’d heard that afternoon. Then over to 6 Music for The Vaccines. Most of what was on the 6 Music stage should have been on the Obelisk Stage, you could hardly get near for any of the bands, many were just too big for the tent. The same with the not very secret midnight Thom Yorke gig in the woods; thousands were queuing for that by 9.30.
I didn’t bother; instead I went to my second highlight of this year, Action To The Word’s modern musical Dracula in The Theatre Arena. Packed to the door and glorious gory fun across the midnight hour, this was a cleverly choreographed production with its tongue firmly in its cheek (when it wasn’t hanging out of Dracula’s mouth). They combined Grand Guignol plasma and corsetry with modern rock, giving us appropriately placed versions of Foo Fighters, The Doors, Mumford and Sons and yes, Radiohead – I didn’t have to go into the woods after all.
I’m off for the summer now – see you in Sept for some exciting Brighton Prize news.