I’m carrying wipe-clean Birkenstock sandals and buckling underneath a rucksack that accommodates a weekend’s price of tenting stuff – sufficient bangers and beans, it appears, to make breakfast for all of the 39,999 different folks on the Latitude Pageant.
Right here at Henham Park, Suffolk, we’re partying collectively prefer it’s, nicely, prefer it’s 2021 and we’ve all been locked up for 16 months.
Latitude is the primary full-capacity tenting occasion to be held anyplace on this planet for the reason that begin of the pandemic, believes competition boss Melvin Benn.
It’s the primary mass gathering in Britain since Freedom Day, July 19.
However in addition to being a flagship freedom occasion, it’s additionally an unlimited laboratory and we’re the human guinea pigs.
Sarah Oliver (pictured) is one in all 40,000 to attend the Latitude Pageant in Suffolk this weekend
That is a part of the Authorities’s Occasions Analysis Programme, understanding how Covid-era leisure and sports activities occasions can go forward safely.
Nobody will get into Latitude with out having been double-jabbed or testing detrimental for Covid.
Yesterday, courtesy of an NHS bus, you might get vaccinated after Supergrass at lunchtime and earlier than the Saturday evening headliners, The Chemical Brothers, when you needed.
The result’s a four-day sell-out crowd with no facemasks, no social distancing and plenty of ‘arms within the air such as you simply don’t care’. (You may nonetheless purchase a facemask adorned with Latitude’s iconic pink sheep – dyed yearly for the occasion – however they’re diminished to half value as there are so few takers.)
This being Latitude, usually nicknamed ‘Latte-tude’ for its middle-class household environment, the early-morning queue for the showers is so long as the one for hip band Moist Leg.
However queues and intently packed crowds there are; folks hugger-mugger; conserving blissful firm with full strangers.
The primary tune of the primary set on the principle stage on Friday had an immediate mosh pit. ‘I find it irresistible,’ mentioned singer Lynks.
‘There aren’t any phrases. No phrases,’ mentioned Ellie Rowsell, lead singer of Wolf Alice, headlining later that evening as she gazed out over women on their boyfriends’ shoulders, dad and mom with toddlers asleep in blanket nests in backyard trolleys, gangs of associates and prolonged household clans.
Benn reckons his competition, with its zero Covid coverage, is among the most secure locations in Britain this weekend.
Girls sit on their good friend’s shoulders as they sing alongside to Mabel’s efficiency on the Latitude competition on Friday
The BBC’s majestic striped Sounds Stage tent (pictured) is one in all a number of Latitude traditions nonetheless intact this 12 months
Tens of hundreds of us are taking him at his phrase. There’s an ardency concerning the crowd.
Tonight they’ll be listening to Bastille, however from early day-after-day the comedy tent is screaming with laughter, there are poetry performances and e book readings and full of life debates concerning the arts, politics and science.
All the weather which have made Latitude well-known are nonetheless right here: the massive blue and white massive prime, the BBC’s majestic yellow and black Sounds Stage tent (sides eliminated to make it extra Covid-secure), the quaint Helter Skelter hovering skywards like a raspberry ripple, and people fluorescent sheep.
What’s new are the hand sanitiser stations, a way of togetherness and, lastly, liberty, which is sharp to the senses.
‘It’s extraordinary to be right here,’ says movie critic Mark Kermode as he take to the stage with the podcast accomplice he hasn’t seen face-to-face for a 12 months and a half. That just about summed it up.
Youngsters play with massive bubbles at this 12 months’s Latitude competition, usually nicknamed ‘Latte-tude’ for its middle-class household environment
Most individuals are keenly conscious that the battle in opposition to Covid continues past Latitude’s fencing.
Right here, nevertheless, with efficiency areas open to the north-east winds threatening torrential rain later (festivals and dust, eh?), air purifiers in enclosed areas and card transactions solely, it feels no extra scary than taking a stroll within the early days of lockdown.
I used to be on the first Latitude in 2006 and I used to be right here for the final one pre-pandemic in 2019 when the Stereophonics created a chic competition second, turning hundreds of individuals right into a single viewers, channeling the uplifting vitality that comes from a shared expertise.
Now, right here, for one lengthy weekend, that’s again. ‘Latitude 21… At Final,’ reads the slogan on a hoodie.
Within the 12 months of Covid, I’m glad I went, and bought the T-shirt.