Latitude was a lovely interlude between finishing the book and my return to Brighton later this week. It's a fantastic festival with a perfect site (despite a massive downpour on Saturday morning, the ground was dry again within an hour or two). I only saw a handful of bands, spending most of my time between the poetry, literary and comedy tents. I saw three of my heroes through the weekend (Chris Morris, Eddie Argos, and Bret Easton Ellis) along with lots of interesting people I'd not heard of before. Among the highlights:
- The poetry tent had an excellent programme, which included my friend Rosy Carrick doing a couple of New Voices slots. I saw good performances from Anna Freeman, Rhian Edwards, Byron Vincent and Laura Dockerill's Word Orchestra. One note to performance poets, though: please can you stop doing patronising pieces about tabloid readers and the underclass.
- There was a showing of 4 Lions with a Q&A afterwards. This was marred only by a heavy-handed announcement that officials with night vision goggles would be making sure nobody filmed the screen. Both insulting and patronising- and there are better ways to steal a film than at a festival showing. Chris Morris lightened the mood a little, suggesting that there were only two officials and a whole crowd – with a little work, it would be possible to run them ragged…. The Q&A was fascinating, with some discussions about the film's research. Apparently, jihadi message boards are like those for "any other obsessive hobby".
- The Bret Easton Ellis interview with Miranda Sawyer was fascinating, but probably deserves a post of its own tomorrow. Hanif Kureshi was an interesting warm-up act; I liked his observation: "Writing could stop you going mad – but so too could reading"
- I read The End of Mr. Y a couple of years ago and wasn't particularly excited by it. On Saturday night, just before midnight, Scarlett Thomas read from her new book Our Tragic Universe, accompanied by her brother on keyboards. I was spellbound by the reading and had to buy the book. I can't wait to read it next week.
- The best band of the weekend was Crystal Castles, who played an amazing, chaotic set on Saturday. Alice Glass veered between being incredibly cool and a little daft, which makes her the perfect pop star (it seemed excessive to have a mike-lead roadie to untangle the wires when she caught them behind the monitors). Alice spent much of the gig in the crowd, cutting the set early after she was groped. Some media reports claimed the crowd were booing when she left, but I didn't hear any boos where I was. It was an amazing, furious set.
- On Sunday night, Robin Ince's book club featured a reading of one of Guy N Smith's Crabs novels, with musical accompaniment. Quite spectacular. I'm now resisting the temptation to re-read the Crabs novels.
Latitude was a great weekend. The festival isn't perfect (the heavy-handed bag searches were wearing) but the acts easily make up for it. I'm looking forward to next year's event.