Latitude 2009 – a top ten


I like Latitude in that you can stock up on a lot of ideas, music, esoterica. Squirrel them away to be followed, in one way or another, or not at all, in the Autumn and Winter


Bishi with a live soundtrack for the extravagantly lush 1923 version of Salome. The film was produced by, and starred, Alla Nazimova, who I’d never heard of but was a famous actress, producer (for a while) and then powerbroker in Hollywood. And also gay.

Salome cost $350,000 to make – with most of that lavished on the sets and costumes by the look of it. A flop that never even made the screens for years. It finished off All Nazimova’s career as a producer. But what a way to go out – a heady, beautiful film.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Grace Jones…

Hula hooping her way through Slave to the Rhythm.

A bravura performance complete with a stream of bonkers asides in that scary nightclub voice.


It’s a brave man who attempts a concept album on cricket – but Neil Hannon dispatches it crisply to the boundary. Assisted by an MCC approved moustache


Adam Buxton’s taster session for his Bug creative music video sessions at the South Bank

These two stayed in the mind…


A talk about synesthesia – which I don’t have but which is not that uncommon

Also enjoyed a session on e-books versus printed books. This took place before the e-book took off in a big way with the Kindle. There was much horror expressed that the e-book could replace the book. Like the book was a last refuge against the temporary, the rushed, the value-less expanding empire of the digital age. The speakers were obviously used to being seen as the scouts for an unwanted and unstoppable invasion force and reacted patiently. But I think there’s was a more sophisticated point about what additional things you could do with electronic forms of books, or story-telling – the ability to go three dimensional. And that ultimately a book is only the physical vessel for a story. However, at the same time, unless I’m missing something not many people seem to have exploited the potential to use electronic media to tell a story with more routes to take, footnotes, diversions. Perhaps there’s something about the internet that means no one has the patience to do anything but speed through content as quickly as possible. Perhaps the I-Pad will change this. But less than a year ago – electronic book readers were a novelty to the audience. Which if nothing else shows how rapidly things change.


Cape Farewell is taking a different tack on climate change – infiltrating climate change into the culture and the arts through taking artists of all stripes to the arctic on sailing ships. And then letting them respond to that as they wish. And gradually that seeps out of their work and into the culture. Prompting a cultural response to climate change gives the issue new and deeper dimensions – rather than just the hard surface exchange of opinion and fact in the media. And hopefully triggering something deeper and ultimately more rooted than the usual responses of helplessness or denial than the hard science and media coverage can provoke in people.

Artists who have taken the trip include Jarvis Cocker, Anthony Gormley, Ian McEwan and Rachel Whitehead and Marcus Brigstocke. It was clear to me from the films and talks at the Cape Farewell event at Latitude that this project will be successful in subtly but significantly permeating the culture.

Jarvis Cocker was one of the people who took part in the Latitude event and it was obvious the trip had a profound effect on him as it did on the others who took part. One of whom was a remarkable human beat box called Shlomo (who had also been on a Cape Farewell trip). Here are they finishing off the event with a cover of Purple Haze! Note – all the ‘musical instruments’ you can hear other than the guitar is Shlomo


Stumbled across Yes Giantess at the Lakeside Stage. First time out of Europe, all pumped up and exuberant. Channelled some of that 80s electro pop joy and abandon without all the self conscious footnoting that’s going on at the moment.



Every Brilliant thing: a tent where people write down on bits of paper their contributions to a list of things that make life worth living

Which in some ways was a companion piece to the tree of lost things – where people tied notes to a tree about things they had lost


Wanderlust – the tale of Tall Hilda – won me over.

Featuring, as it does, a ten foot tall, Bavarian who achieved her extraordinary height by obtaining a brew from a witch in the Black Forest. Also featuring a mute Gretel on violin, piano and ukulele. The cabaret performance takes you on a journey from Bavaria, through an outlandish Eastern Europe to an apocalyptic Jerusalem.

I wish I’d seen all of it


And performance-wise the companion piece to this was Ken Campbell’s School of Night. The late Ken Campbell’s school of players improvising with virtuosity around Shakespearian tropes randomised through audience suggestions.


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