Once you actually made it in to Latitude Festival in Suffolk yesterday, it was: ‘Pandemic? What pandemic?’
No social distancing was required and face masks were optional.
Even in the crush of the ‘mosh pit’ close to the stage there was only a smattering of suitably flower-power-themed face coverings.
The four-day gathering, attended by 40,000, is the first music event of 2021 to be running at full capacity in the world. And people were free to dance, jump up and down, wave their arms, sing or hug the person next to them, including strangers. Many did.
Old ravers say: ‘If you remember the Swinging Sixties you weren’t there’.
Once you actually made it in to Latitude Festival in Suffolk yesterday, it was: ‘Pandemic? What pandemic?’ Pictured: Simon Walters
Even in the crush of the ‘mosh pit’ close to the stage there was only a smattering of suitably flower-power-themed face coverings
Well, if you forgot to bring proof to Latitude that you were double-jabbed, had tested negative or had immunity after a recent bout of Covid, then you won’t remember being there. And that’s because you’d been sent home.
An on-site medical team offered tests to anyone who had symptoms and those who tested positive got a refund.
Festival-goers were also able to get a jab, provided they’d had their first one more than eight weeks previously, on a dedicated bus in between partying.
Latitude has been authorised by the Government as part of a research programme commissioned by Boris Johnson. Experts will check how many of those who attended subsequently tested positive with a view to working out how mass gatherings can be held safely, and which measures will reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
The sense of relief that the festival is a sign of life getting back to normal was palpable.
The sense of relief that the festival is a sign of life getting back to normal was palpable
Prison officer Ken Wilde, 61, from Northamptonshire, said: ‘We have to move on. People still bleat on about the dangers but we have to go forward.’ Businesswoman Tracey De Groose, from London, was with her husband and two teenage sons.
‘We do not live in a totalitarian state,’ she said. ‘We have to start managing risk ourselves and not have politicians manage it for us.’ Younger festival-goers were equally relaxed.
Maisie, 22, and Scott, 23, from Gravesend, Kent, did not expect to use masks. ‘No one was wearing them at the shows we have seen,’ said Maisie, who has had one jab.
Festivals have come a long way from their hippy roots and are now a key part of Britain’s cultural scene, contributing millions to the economy.
There’s still a Leftie vibe, of course: famously Jeremy Corbyn’s name was chanted by fans at Glastonbury in 2017. And there was never going to be a musical endorsement of the PM yesterday – even though it wouldn’t have happened but for him.
Festival-goers were also able to get a jab, provided they’d had their first one more than eight weeks previously, on a dedicated bus in between partying
Much smaller than Glastonbury, Latitude is seen by some hard-core festival-goers as a bit tame. They call it ‘latte-tude’ and joke about the ‘Waitrose Tent’.
Perhaps it has something to do with the location: held on the 4,200-acre Henham Park estate and close to the fashionable coastal town of Southwold.
This year the headline acts included Wolf Alice, The Chemical Brothers and Bastille. It’s a far cry from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, where, aged 15, my pal Mick and I were among the estimated 600,000 who descended on the island.
Hells Angels stormed the security fences, causing panic and the stage caught fire.
Joni Mitchell, The Who, The Doors and Leonard Cohen played. Not that you actually heard them because the sound system was so bad.
We were camped next to some blokes from Rochdale who were on cocaine. The only white powder I knew at the time came in sherbet fountains. Scared of a telling off from my mum for being away for so long, I left just before my hero Jimi Hendrix came on stage. I soon regretted it: he died a couple of weeks later.
Compared to the peace and love, anarchy and squalor of 50 years ago, Latitude is little more adventurous than a trip to Marks and Spencer. And, like most modern festivals, it is just as well organised as M&S.
Bohemia for the bourgeoisie – and long may it continue.