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Wild things

PUBLISHED: 09:44 12 May 2015 | UPDATED: 09:44 12 May 2015

Latitude Festival - Henham Estate near Southwold, Suffolk

Young festival goers watch a performance of Wind in the Willows in the kids arena

Latitude Festival - Henham Estate near Southwold, Suffolk Young festival goers watch a performance of Wind in the Willows in the kids arena

Lucy Etherington’s planning a family trip to Latitude, grandparents and all . . .

Latitude Festival - Henham Estate near Southwold, Suffolk  A large crowd enjoy the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the main stageLatitude Festival - Henham Estate near Southwold, Suffolk A large crowd enjoy the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the main stage

Three generations of our family are doing Latitude this July.

My parents, in their sixties, are both ex music journalists who have seen wilder times than any of us, and will probably think Latitude is a bit tame, especially as it has ballet and poets and gastro food stalls.

My husband and I, in our forties, never stop banging on about the glory days of Glastonbury, and will probably be telling the same stories about seeing the Pixies, and how we blagged our way backstage in 2003, when we’re in our care home.

My poor teenage offspring, meanwhile, will have to walk around the cool festival pretending to other cool teenagers they’re not with their uncool parents and grandparents.

As a family, we have pretty much mastered the art of walking together separately, my husband and I casually scanning the area while pretending to browse stalls, like policemen on a stakeout.

Nana, however, will totally blow our cover. “Daisy, look at those lovely flags!” “Jackson, quick, Alt J is on the main stage!” She will sing loudly along to all the acts, especially her favourites, The Manic Street Preachers, and make us wear comedy hats.

Grampy will use his bad knee as an excuse to sit in the beer tent and ignore us.

I just know the kids will spend the whole time begging us to let them go off on their own, which will of course force us into the uptight establishment roles we’ve always railed against. I’ll end up saying things like “I used to be quite wild in my day”, and get my mum to back me up, which will make me sound even more tragic.

I’ve always wished someone would invent some tracking device for children, just so we can pretend to be laid-back while checking our handsets every so often. My latest plan is to say “Off you go, kids”, then pop on a disguise (a festival-friendly wig, maybe, or – even better! – stilts and a few balloon animals) and surreptitiously follow them.

To be fair, Latitude is one of the most laid-back and family friendly festivals I’ve ever been to. At night, from our tent in the family field, we can hear the DJs and see the sky pulse with lights and know that the young are doing what we used to do back in the day.

But by day, the Middle Aged rule. You can basically pretend you’re at Hay-on-Wye.

Last time we went, I saw Hanif Kureshi before heading for the knitting tent, watched Sadler’s Wells do Swan Lake, then sat in a forest talking philosophy on a sofa with someone from The School of Life. Meanwhile, my husband joined all the other fortysomething dads in the comedy tent. We perused our festival maps like retirees visiting a heritage site.

We first took our daughter to Latitude when she was seven and she saw Jarvis Cocker, who sang a song containing the worst swear word in the world – which she just happened to love and remember word-perfectly, the way children do. We had to tell her the word was actually ‘Cats’ and so for years she sang, “Cats are still running the world”, while my husband and I sniggered.

When she was nine, she and her friend Pia spent the whole weekend not going to the toilet (if you’ve experienced festival toilets, you’ll know why) and glaring at us – except when they realised we were quite useful for climbing onto to get a better view of the main stage.

This is the first time we have taken our son, who will have his eleventh birthday while we’re there - although since we moved to Suffolk, he’s done more festivals than any of us, thanks to his best friend’s mum, who is the kind of laid-back hippie I wish I could be.

She lets the boys go feral as she heads for the psychedelic-trance tent with her chums, while back at home I try not to think about what they’re up to and pretend he’s gone for a common-or-garden sleepover, playing unsuitable video games instead of running wild around a field all night.

He always comes back happy and muddy, having had the best time ever. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one who ended up looking after

all of us.


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