Latitude 2009

Literary Tent, Sunday Night at Latitude

Michael Bonner

The last few hours of Latitude 2007 and it’s starting to feel like the fall of Saigon, but only in a genteel and latte-sipping way. As night engulfs the woods and almost the entire remaining crowd is sucked towards Arcade Fire’s headline set, there are precious few refuges left for cultural dissidents who may be immune to epic Canadian folk-rock.

Thankfully the Literary Tent remains open, with a broad-minded remit that also seems to embrace music, comedy, lectures and surrealist cabaret. Crucially, it also has lovely comfy cushions on the floor.

In the last 24 hours Uncut has spent many a laidback interlude at the Literary Tent. We have seen a stage rammed with people, including “Backbeat” star Ian Hart, singing loudly about maggots. We have heard punk survivor Don Letts reminiscing about the Pistols and the Clash. And we have seen children plucked from the crowd in order to represent all ten of the Doctor Whos so far. All human life passes through here. And some non-human too.

So here we are again for a little Sunday night soiree hosted by Scottish author Alan Bissett. “Welcome to the Book Slam slot,” Bissett says, “or as I like to call it, the Fuck Arcade Fire slot… come on, they’re overrated. They’re no Radiohead.”

Book Slam clearly refers to some flexible new definition of the word “book”, since it also includes an absolutely ace solo set by California-born, London-based country-blues chanteuse Diane Birch and her electric piano. A real sweetheart of the rodeo, and all under the highbrow umbrella of literature.

Meanwhile, outside the tent, a wildman with the burly build of a Welsh truck driver is running amok between the picnic tables, stripping down to just his scarlet thong. At Latitude, the line between performance artist and sex pest is very fine indeed. Pour me an absinthe and pass my smoking jacket, darling. I can see this is going to be a long night.

Words: Stephen Dalton


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