The Black Keys’ Sunday headline set at Latitude brought the 2014 festival to an explosive close, after an unforgettable weekend of music, culture, soaring temperatures and electrical storms.

On Friday night, Lily Allen stood in for Two Door Cinema Club at the last minute, performing her first ever headline set. Paying tribute to the band she replaced, Lily donned a Two Door Cinema Club T-Shirt as she rapped a cover of the band’s song Something Good Can Work at the start of her set. With a brilliant stage set consisting of giant milk bottles, Lily belted out hits from her first two albums as well as this year’s Sheezus album, winning over the Latitude crowd with her edgy lyrics and feisty pop sensibility.

On Saturday night Damon Albarn wowed the Latitude crowds during his headline set, which took place during an electrical lightning storm, with music from his new album as well as favourites from Gorillaz and Blur. The first lightning bolt lit up the sky toward the end of the set revealing Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, on stage to perform Tender with Damon.

The ninth edition of Latitude got going on Thursday evening with a lively welcome party in the woods featuring DJs Goldirocks and DJ Push, plus French theatre company Ilotopie performing ‘Le Rêve à travers la Porte’ (Doorway to a Dream) on the lake, a special Latitude commission from Lavish which featured a series of surreal floating installations including flaming Dali-esque horses, jousting knights on petals, a flaming apocalyptic angel and a giant gliding Lady of the Lake. On Thursday afternoon Sadler’s Wells also kicked off a wonderful weekend of dance performances with an electric pairing from the World Tango Champions on the Waterfront Stage.

As Henham Park basked in a glorious heatwave on Friday, festival goers were surprised with the announcement of a secret gig by Rudimental on the Obelisk Arena, who got the crowds dancing with a string of number one hits including Waiting all Night. The band followed pop songstress Kelis’ whose gloriously sun drenched set on the Obelisk Arena, set the tone for the rest of the weekend. There was also a chance for fans to catch Lily Allen sing one song on the Waterfront Stage in the early evening prior to her headline set. Over on the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage festival goers were treated to a very special gig by Slowdive, the only summer festival appearance from the dream pop band in the UK since their last concert over 20 years ago.

Latitude’s arts arenas were no less starry on Friday, with stand-out appearances from comedian Dara O’Briain, photographer to the stars David Bailey in conversation with Tim Marlow, novelist Jon Ronson reading from Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie and a performance by Cuban dance company Ballet Revolucion on the Waterfront Stage.

Latitude 2014_MSethi-8968
Photo by: Marc Sethi

On Saturday, Hall and Oates drew a huge crowd into the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage with renditions of their catchy eighties pop hits including I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), which saw festival goers spilling out onto the grass outside the tent. Headlining the same stage later that night were Royksopp and Robyn with a blinding performance of genius electro-pop. Meanwhile in the Obelisk Arena anticipation among 35,000 music fans reached fever pitch as First Aid Kit and Bombay Bicycle Club warmed up the crowd for the eagerly anticipated appearance of Damon Albarn which was backlit by a huge electrical lightning storm and biblical showers that did not deter festival goers from dancing along to hits from Blur and Gorillaz.

Earlier in the day there were appearances from Simon Amstell in the Comedy Arena and Dame Vivienne Westwood in the Literary Arena. Throughout the day, the Theatre Arena played host to some of the best arts performances at the festival, kicking off with the festival’s first ever circus performance by Strike! This was followed by Jack Dee’s Help Desk, where the comedy star was joined by comedians Jeremy Hardy, Seann Walsh, Katherine Ryan and Roisin Conaty who joked about the thunderstorms that swept through Henham Park on Friday night. Next was Revolt. She said. Revolt again, an examination of 21 Century feminism by cult RSC playwright Alice Birch which saw huge queues of theatre goers waiting in anticipation outside.

Sunday at Latitude began with Atomic Bomb! Who is William Onyeabor, on the Obelisk Arena, with a collective of musicians including Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip and Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem celebrating music from the West African synth pioneer William Onyeabor. Later on the same stage, Chrissie Hynde played to ecstatic festival crowds while the Haim sisters announced they were thrilled to be closing their 2014 tour at Latitude Festival. Over on the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage NY garage-punk outfit Parquet Courts energised the afternoon crowds with a lively set before Philadelphia rockers War on Drugs took to the stage for an impressive performance, playing several tracks from their recent album, the critically acclaimed Lost In The Dream.

On the Waterfront Stage, festival goers settled in for an afternoon of dance with stellar performances from English National Ballet, Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance and Candoco Dance Company. Elsewhere wordsmiths Kate Tempest and Scroobius Pip and comedian Kevin Bridges packed in crowds. In a screening of the Art Party, Bob and Roberta Smith presented a film which challenged the decisions made by Michael Grove, starting a festival wide debate about arts and the education that spilled into the press. American rock duo The Black Keys closed the festival in style. The Sunday night performers played an exceptional show that prompted the most raucous crowd of the weekend, all of whom were boisterously chanting along to their impressive back catalogue.

Once again Latitude showcased a diverse selection of the best in independent music and emerging talent. The BBC Radio 6 Music Stage was home to an array of alternative and leftfield music, with standout sets over the weekend from much-hyped Jungle, young singer-songwriter George Ezra, pop-classical ensemble Clean Bandit, Swedish psych-masters Goat and Sunday night headliner Lykki Li, all of whom played to packed out crowds. Tucked away in the intimate setting of the woods, festival-goers gathered at the i Arena to catch cutting-edge acts, with memorable performances from Future Islands, The Fat White Family, Kwabs, The Acid, Nils Frahm, Young Fathers and Tom Vek. The Lake Stage and the Alcove were the best stages to catch the hottest new talent on site, and hosted impressive sets from the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen, Luke Sital Singh, Years and Years, Slaves, Woman’s Hour, Circa Waves, Seinabo Sey and Jagaara.

Photo by: Marc Sethi
Photo by: Marc Sethi

Throughout the weekend the festival’s theme of Secrets and Lies was explored across the arts stages, in the Literary Arena Shami Chakrabarti from Liberty debated Secrets and Freedom: What’s the truth? While in the Wellcome Trust Science and Secrets Hub, scientists including Roland Zahn and Dr Geoff Warbuton discussed by Guilty Feelings, grief, negative emotions and the effects on the heart and the brain. The New Statesman hosted a series of debates including Secrets and Lies: literary dystopias from Kafka to The Hunger Games with Meg Rosoff, Laurie Penny, and Toby Litt, while Suzi Feay discussed ‘Who are you really? Our public and personal truths’ with Nikesh Shukla, Luke Brown and Josh Cohen.

Latitude’s Comedy Arena continued to draw the cream of UK and international comedy with a line-up that included Josie Long, Katherine Ryan, Marcus Brigstocke, Tim Key and Milton Jones. The Poetry Arena played host to many of the UK’s most popular bards including Michael Rosen, Roger McGough and Holly McNish. Meanwhile the Literary Arena attracted some of the UK’s greatest minds, including Meg Rossoff, Richard Wiseman and Mark Watson.

This year the Faraway Forest saw a number of exciting new additions that went down a storm among festival audiences. New stages included The Shed of Stories, where professional storytellers both delighted and terrified in equal measure. The Little House was an exciting new theatre space, which brought audiences performances from experimental theatre companies including Forced Entertainment, Look Left Look Right and Papercut Theatre. The Live Art House pushed festival-goers’ boundaries with its mix of cabaret, performance, audience participation and challenging ideas with Dusty Limits a highlight.

Latitude’s line up for kids and family was even bigger this year with an overwhelming number of activities and performances specifically curated for teens and kids in both the Children’s Arena and the Inbetweeners Teen Area. Highlights included performances of The National Theatre’s The Cat in the Hat! as well as a special visit from The Gruffalo who was getting kids and grownups alike into the festival spirit. Teenagers were getting creative with workshops on everything from comic book design, animation and photography to beat boxing, music production and DJing in the CultureWorks East Area, while Greenpeace gave festival teens a taste of the great outdoors with their giant cargo nets and lessons in bush craft alongside the Latitude lake.

Commenting on the ninth edition of the festival Melvin Benn, founder and creator of Latitude said:
“It was an amazing weekend with outstanding headline performances from Black Keys, Damon and Lily and phenomenal performances across all the arts that we cover. Lily stepping in at the last minute to deliver the set of her life to a huge and appreciative crowd was awesome as was Damon conducting the lightning from the main stage during his set. Everything was perfect! Roll on the tenth birthday party of latitude in 2015”.

And that’s it for another year. The tents have been packed away, the Latitude sheep have washed away their colourful dye jobs and the woods resound once again to birdsong. 2015 is going to be Latitude’s 10th Anniversary so expect some big surprises and new announcements about the festival. Latitude 2015 will take place next July with early bird tickets due to go on sale this week.