SO.CO Team

4 months ago

Latitude Festival Welcomes 40,000 Fans In Big Weekend For UK Music

Latitude Festival welcomed 40,000 music fans back to Henham Park in Suffolk this weekend, as the UK events industry rebooted after a long Covid-19 lockdown. 

Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice performs at Latitude Festival 2021

Featuring headline performances from Wolf Alice, Chemical Brothers and Bastille, as well as notable appearances from Damon Albarn, Sons Of Kemet and Bombay Bicycle Club, it was an understandably UK-centric affair, but that didn’t stop a number of artists missing out due to testing positive for the virus. Arlo Parks, Fontaines DC and Alfie Templeman all fell victim, causing a late hunt for replacements and some absolute gems. 

Alex Rice of Sports Team crowdsurfs during his band's performance.

One such super-sub was Sports Team, standing in for recent tour support Templeman. The band played Margate the night before, and the last minute booking meant a dash across the country in order to play a triumphant early afternoon slot on the Obelisk Stage. 

Self Esteem performs on the Obelisk Stage at Latitude 2021.

Self-Esteem (or Rebecca Lucy Taylor, as her mum knows her) was another such stand-in, stepping up to cover for the stricken Billie Marten. Taylor’s exemplary punk-dressed-as-pop set was spellbinding, and perfect Sunday morning hangover fodder. It was only matched, quite frankly, by her series of panicked tweets after agreeing to the show the evening before! 

The Vaccines perform a secret set on the BBC Sounds stage at Latitude 2021

Given that Sunday’s performance from The Vaccines was meant to be a secret, news clearly travels fast in the Henham Park fields. Getting anywhere near the BBC Sounds tent for their show was hard enough, and getting inside it was almost impossible. Tearing through their impressive back-catalogue, as well as introducing cuts from their upcoming album Back In Love City, Justin Hayward-Young and co. showed why they draw a crowd, no matter where they play. 

Damon Albarn performs at Latitude Festival 2021

Whilst we’re on the subject of stages-too-small-for-acts, the booking of Damon Albarn onto a stage designed for chilled-out ballet and string quartet performances was delightful on paper, but possibly less so in action. Whilst the performance was, as ever, magnificent, the location (and the stage’s relatively small PA system) did not suit the crowd Albarn drew, particularly as he was unchallenged by a main stage act, due to Arlo Parks’ late withdrawal.

Sleaford Mods perform at Latitude Festival 2021

SO.CO favourites Sleaford Mods were another late addition, headlining the BBC Sounds stage on Saturday night. An impressive crowd, even up against Chemical Brothers on the main stage, showed just how well received their recent album, Spare Ribs, has been. A bonus appearance by Billy Nomates to guest on Mork & Mindy topped off a superb set by the Midlands punks. 

Crowds at the Obelisk Stage for Bombay Bicycle Club

The last word, however, really has to go to the fans. The 40,000 who bought tickets on the off-chance that Latitude 2021 might actually happen. For three days straight they sang, danced, hugged and screamed, and there wasn’t an act that wasn’t welcomed like their favourite band. Fans make festivals, and if the music industry has learned anything in the last eighteen months, it’s that they should never be taken for granted. The acts might make the music, but it’s the fans that make the noise. 

Sports Team fans at Latitude Festival 2021.

Words and images by Thomas Jackson for SO.CO.