United Kingdom

Latitude Festival goers praise 'amazing' feeling as music event begins

Revellers at the Latitude Festival have spoken about the 'amazing feeling' of being at the first major music event since before the pandemic began.

The four-day festival, which is part of the Government's Events Research Programme, is expected to be attended by 40,000 people.

Festivalgoers must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test or be double vaccinated to access the site at Henham Park in Suffolk which also boasts its own pop-up vaccination clinic.

Headliners Wolf Alice, The Chemical Brothers, Bastille and Bombay Bicycle Club will perform at the event.

Revellers at the Latitude Festival have spoken about the 'amazing feeling' of being at the first major music event since before the pandemic began

The four-day festival, which is part of the Government's Events Research Programme, is expected to be attended by 40,000 people

Festivalgoer Rebecca Watson, 32, a creative director from London, who had her nine-month-old daughter Minnie in a baby carrier on her front, said: 'It's just amazing, isn't it? It's great.

'And also for Minnie, as she's never seen any of this before. It's so good to see people, and happiness.

'I think it's the tonic everyone needed at the end of last year.'

Kris Spandler, 31, of Brighton, who is working on a stand at the festival, said: 'It feels amazing.

'Last night was an amazing feeling, everyone back together again.

'The feeling of the energy of everybody just enjoying each other's company, watching a live act and listening, reacting as a crowd rather than just watching something at home for one-and-a-half years.'

He said the festival feels 'safe so far', adding: 'Everyone's approaching it like that. Everyone seems happy so far.'

Festivalgoers must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test or be double vaccinated to access the site at Henham Park in Suffolk which also boasts its own pop-up vaccination clinic

Latitude festival is 'close to being the safest place in England today', its organiser said as the event begins in Suffolk

Headliners Wolf Alice, The Chemical Brothers, Bastille and Bombay Bicycle Club will perform at the event

Jason Appel, a 45-year-old accountant from north London, said: 'It feels great, it was really nice, really happy when we walked in.

'Just generally nice to feel like you're in a bit of a sanctuary, I think.

'I think if you've come to a festival in the first place you're going to want to be in a place like this so for me it's felt absolutely fine.'

University worker Stephen Matthews, 50, from Wivenhoe, near Colchester in Essex, said it felt a 'little bit odd' to be back at a festival.

'It's a little bit odd,' he said.

'Very happy in general, but standing in a crowd for the first time last night was a little bit strange, and feeling people come quite close to you was quite strange.

'But good to hear live music. I think it is safe but I think there's a natural anxiety there just because we're not used to it.' 

Festivalgoers arrived at the event on Thursday amid the heatwave but the Met Office has warned the high temperatures are not set to last through the weekend

Latitude festival is 'close to being the safest place in England today', its organiser said as the event begins in Suffolk

Latitude festival is 'close to being the safest place in England today', its organiser said as the event begins in Suffolk. 

Melvin Benn, managing director of the Festival Republic group, told Sky News he feels 'very relaxed, not anxious at all' as the four-day music event gets under way.

He said: 'I am really very happy and very relaxed. I hope I look relaxed, I feel very relaxed.

'We had a great night last night. It was a huge party. None of the main stage acts were playing but there is a lot going on in the woods, on the lake and in the theatre area.

'I'm very relaxed, not anxious at all. It is probably as close to being the safest place in England today really.'

Two acts - Irish band Fontaines DC and singer-songwriter Alfie Templeman - have been forced to pull out of appearing at the festival after positive Covid-19 tests.

Mr Benn said it is a 'shame' they cannot perform but he suggested the programme has not been badly affected.

He said: 'I think most of them (the acts) are existing in a little bubble until they have managed to come and play.

'We did lose a couple but there were people standing by waiting to come and play, so we have managed to replace them.

'It was a real shame for Alfie and for Fontaines and some people would have been coming just for them - not just for them but were really looking forward to them.

'But I think we have got good replacements and the festival overall is just worth coming to full stop.'

Upcoming summer music fesivals 

ALL POINTS EAST

When: August 27-29 Where: Victoria Park, London

BIG FEASTIVAL

When: August 27-29 Where: Kingham, Oxfordshire

BLOODSTOCK

When: August 11-15 Where: Catton Park, Derbyshire

CAMP BESTIVAL

When: July 29 - August 1 Where: Lulworth Castle, Dorset

CREAMFIELDS

When: August 26-29 Where: Daresbury, Cheshire

ISLE OF WIGHT

When: September 16-19 (rescheduled) Where: Seaclose Park, Newport

KENDALL CALLING

When: July 29 - August 1 Where: Lowther Deer Park, Cumbria 

READING AND LEEDS

When: August 27-29 Where: Little John's Farm, Reading; Bramham Park, Leeds

WIRELESS

When: September 10-12 (rescheduled) Where: Crystal Palace Park, London

Festival Republic, which also runs heavy rock event Download, mainly booked British and Irish acts for Latitude due to travel complications amid the pandemic.

Camilla Staveley-Taylor from indie folk trio The Staves, who are due to perform at the festival, told Sky News: 'There is nothing like feeling the energy from a group of people and sharing in an experience together.

'Festivals are that times 10 because there are so many people gathered together and there is such a sense of unity and that has been so missing in the last year.'

Festivalgoers arrived at the event on Thursday amid the heatwave but the Met Office has warned the high temperatures are not set to last through the weekend.

Many have been attending the vaccination bus at the site itself. 

The single-decker, staffed by NHS workers, is between the festival campsite and the main arena on the site.

Visitors, aged over 18, can get a first or second dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine on a walk-in basis.

Festivalgoer Felicity Perry, from near Norwich, and her friend Sophie Edmondson, from Walthamstow, both got their second doses of the Pfizer vaccine after seeing a chalkboard sign that said 'come and get vaccinated'.

Ms Perry, 39, who works at a research centre said: 'I saw the sign, thought it was a joke, thought 'what's going on over there', then we ended up five minutes later having our second vaccines.'

'On a bus,' added 33-year-old civil servant Ms Edmondson.

Ms Perry went on: 'It was written on a chalk board - 'come and get vaccinated'.

'I didn't expect to see it here.'

Debt adviser Amanda Livesey-Clarke also had her second Pfizer jab at the bus.

'I just thought while I'm here and they're doing them I might as well get it done now rather than wait another two weeks,' said the 31-year-old, from York.

'I know there's lots of people, younger people who haven't had it yet.

'They could be on the fence about it, it could just be really easy to come here and there's just a bus there.

'It's really easy, they're not having to go online, book it through the website, sometimes that can put people off.

'I think this is a really good thing to do.'

Sami Stebbings, from Norwich, said she had 'no idea' the vaccination bus was due to be on site and thought it was 'great' when she found out.

The 33-year-old, who works for a science education charity, also had her second Pfizer jab.

'As soon as we knew about it I wanted to get it done while I was here,' she said.

NHS nurse Susan Glegg, who is part of the vaccination team, said some campers have indicated they will return to the bus on Sunday to get their vaccination.

She said they are planning to put on extra staff and are considering staying open later - having opened from 10am to 4pm on Thursday.

'My opinion is we're going to get a lot on Sunday,' she said.

Asked about people drinking alcohol at the festival, she said: 'As long as they have the ability to give informed consent they can have it.'

The 64-year-old, who is calling the team the 'Pfizer Chiefs', went on: 'I've never been to a festival before.

'I think this is fantastic. We were drumming up trade yesterday, we were going round telling everybody that we're here.

'That was our break. I absolutely loved it. I've not been here before so it's very exciting and everybody's so lovely.'

Ronnie Fisher, workforce co-ordinator for the vaccine team, said 13 people were vaccinated on the bus on Thursday and another 11 had been jabbed by midday on Friday.

Earlier this month, the organisers said a number of ministers and MPs will be among the crowds at the event.

Social distancing measures were lifted in England on Monday meaning music festivals can go ahead, however some events including Glastonbury and Womad have been cancelled for 2021.

Elsewhere, Rory Bett, organiser of the Wilderness festival, yesterday told Jo Wiley on Radio 2 that the event had been struggling to find enough portable toilets and scaffolding after being snapped at by Covid testing centres.

Speaking about the difficulties festivals had faced this year, he said: 'The most important problems we have had to overcome is just the uncertainty of whether we were going to be bale to actually operate - a lot of festivals have had to cancelled due to either a lack of insurance or just the fact the Government were being slightly vague about whether we could actually open etc etc.

'But really all we needed was the green light. We've all been straining at the leash to do this...

'I think some of the other problems have been more circumstantial due to the last 18 months. The government have a lot of our infrastructure tied up in the testing centres - be that scaffolding or toilets or staff or security.'  

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