Latitude: Why a cancelled music festival leaves a ‘big void’
Music festivals were among the first things to be cancelled as coronavirus spread, leaving fans disappointed and performers with nowhere to play. But what does it mean for the places where they were due to take place?
A quiet corner of Suffolk should have been reverberating to the sound of Haim, Liam Gallagher and The Chemical Brothers this weekend.
The Latitude Festival has grown to become a key date on the calendar of music fans since it started in 2006.
For Rebecca Bishop, director of the Two Magpies Bakery, in Darsham, it is typically a “crazy” weekend.
“It starts earlier in the week when the crews start arriving and then, by Wednesday and Thursday, we have a massive line of traffic outside the bakery,” Ms Bishop said.
“It’s all systems go, we’re making hundreds and hundreds of croissants.”
General manager Yasmin Wyatt said staff have to plan their journey into work on the Latitude weekend to avoid being delayed.
Last year, she made an error and “completely forgot the build-up to the festival”.
“I got stuck in the A12 festival traffic and genuinely a half-hour trip to get to work ended up taking two hours and 45 minutes,” she said.
This year, there are no such problems. The festival was cancelled weeks ago.
Another popular haunt for festival staff before and after the event would normally be The White Hart, the nearby pub and bed and breakfast in Blythburgh.
Landlord Lee Knight said for them “it starts about a month before”.
“We get the production crew coming in and then you get more of them and all the organisers,” he said.
“For the five days [Latitude] is on we’re really quiet. Then two weeks after we get another 40 people come in to pack down. So before and after it’s very busy for us.”
Mr Knight, 42, said that while locals were “sad” the event had been cancelled, the impact on businesses is “not about that weekend, it’s the whole three months” of lockdown.
About 14 miles (22km) from the site is Lowestoft-based Atlas Taxis, which has been running for about 30 years.
Sue Harvey said the cancellation left a “big void” in what would normally be the start of the summer season for the firm.
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Over the years, it has benefited as Latitude has grown to attract 40,000 people, including festival staff and guests.
“It’s a major event for all the taxi firms, not just ourselves. We usually transport some of the performers, some of the crews that set up and the impact is for many weeks beforehand, right up until it finishes on the Monday,” she said.
Normally, the company’s entire fleet of 25 vehicles would be out each day of the Latitude weekend – compared to about 15 on a usual weekend evening – taking people between Lowestoft and Henham Park.
The festival has been hosted in the 4,200-acre Henham Park since its inception in 2006, land that has been in the Rous family for the past 500 years.
Current owner Hektor Rous said he would usually be preparing to go down to the site and open up the gates for the first day, but instead was “enjoying the sunshine and out with the kids” at the bakery.
He said while it was “really sad” the festival was not taking place, “people have bigger problems going on than this”.
“Of course, on Saturday I’ll be sitting on the bridge with a beer thinking ‘where are the other 40,000 people?’, but it’s not the end of the world. We’ll be back bigger and better next year.”
Mr Rous said he felt for the B&Bs, holiday lets and restaurants in the area.
“People come here for the festival and they say ‘you know what I might come back here in August for a holiday’, it helps people discover Suffolk and that’s always been fantastic,” he said.
But he added that businesses would “bounce back”.
“Suffolk people are strong, able and clever and we’ll all be good next year.
“The whole planet is probably looking forward to some kind of good party and definitely Suffolk is, and this is the place to have it. “
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