After a night of rain that many feared would turn the site into a quagmire, Latitude Festival-goers were pleasantly surprised by dry ground and sun on its opening Friday.
With the music not starting until midday, the three literary stages – with the main literature and poetry stages backed up by a smaller, more participatory literary salon – were packed throughout the morning.
We Love This Book spent a morning captivated by the performances of lively young poets, including the Essex wit of the morning’s curator Luke Wright, the hip-hop stylings of teacher Mark Grist and 2009 Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner Tim Key.
Wright was the perfect compare for the morning, both friendly and forthright, quite willing to put the audience in their place if they looked likely to leave (they didn’t) or to sort out a low-hanging curtain obscuring his face. His poems have the everyday familiarity of the smooch outside the burger van, the sticky drink on the floor in the motorway service station – this is the realm of brainy pop like Pulp, the Arctic Monkeys and The Streets as much as it is traditional poetry. For all the fun – which included an alliterative poem set around a B-movie about Barry from Brentford vs the Blob – his most riveting work was about fatherhood, a paean to his day job as a stay at home dad.
The tent was packed out before Key even made the stage, and not just because of a sudden downpour. Ambling in front of the crowd, he proceeded to open a fizzed-up can of beer inside his suit – handing it to a girl in the front row as his personal butler for the rest of his set. His performance was shambolic, sardonic and had the audience in stitches, in particular his dry, very short poems (“Tania Googled herself. Still nothing” – “some are sad”, he admitted).
Reading out poetry from crackers stuffed inside minidisc cases, or from the backs of playing cards, he covered dating disasters, a dying whale and moorhens in an eclectic set.
Later, the stage was given over to more traditional poets, largely from Yorkshire, as first Blake Morrison and then Simon Armitage showed off new work. Morrison previewed his new work, inspired by the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials, infusing original sources with his own poetry.
Elsewhere on the Friday, Paul Mason repeated his previous festival appearances to pack out the literary tent in the morning to discuss the various global popular uprisings and Siri Hustvedt talked about her new book of essays. The rain stayed off to allow the party to start in earnest on the main music stage, with first Amadou and Mariam, then Janelle Monae and Metronomy providing beats, bass and attitude.