“I first heard about Latitude via Facebook, in 2008 and I thought ‘Music Festival? No, thank you',” he recalls. “Then I started to look into the arts stages; the poetry tent, noticed Simon Armitage was there, noticed who was going to be in the theatre tent, and then thought ‘Oh, this is something I actually want to do!' ”
That was Latitude 3, and Hescott's first time. How was it? “It was a complete revelation actually. I went to Edinburgh that year too, for the first time in about ten years, and Latitude nailed everything that Edinburgh wasn't. I discovered so many new artists. Because, once you've paid for the ticket, everything is free, I'd go to see something and find the event, or the poet, or the musician who was on before was even more interesting to me.”
All my understanding of festivals came from hearing my friend's experiences at 16. I felt like part of a community at Latitude
Once you've got the first time out of the way, it just gets easier and more enjoyable. Hescott has mentioned his pre-Latitude nerves, that reticence about going to a ‘festival', but he admits that once he took the first step, he found he had nothing to worry about. “I became a bit of a festival junkie – I'd definitely go to other festivals. All my understanding of festivals came from hearing my friend's experiences at 16. I felt like part of a community at Latitude, and now I really quite enjoy camping… for a few days at least!”
The idea of Latitude as a community is one that recurs whenever I speak to people, but Hescott is quick to point out that it's not really ‘luvvy' or network-y. “It was a holiday really,” he explains. “I did bump into a lot of people that I knew there, but it wasn't networking. If anything, it opened my eyes. It was the first time I'd seen anything under Josie Rourke's tenure at The Bush, and then Latitude was the first time I'd caught the Miniaturists, and when I got back to London, I'd seen a whole lot of companies whose work I'd been aware of but had never got round to catching. So, in retrospect, it was quite network-y as I was able to make contacts with those companies, but I wouldn't have enjoyed networking while I was there.”
As part of a community, mixing with like-minded people, Hescott recalls some of the highlights of his first Latitude – including Ken Campbell's final ever performance. “I'd known and worked with Ken quite a bit, and had seen him so many times from the age of 12, and catching him at Latitude, at what no-one knew was his last performance, that was a definite highlight and I'm glad I saw that.”
What it was, for Hescott, was creatively rewarding. “Then and there, I knew I wanted to take something to Latitude. I'd just had a show, Wolves at the Window, close in London, and I knew right then, that Wolves would work at Latitude.”
Wolves at the Window was a delicious piece of chamber theatre, adapted by Toby Davies from the satirical writings of Saki. “Because there was such a big comedy audience at the festival, I knew that they would get the humour of Wolves,” explains Hescott.
Latitude actually really informed the changes we made to the show
“Interestingly, because we were one of the only companies to receive a PG rating, we attracted a large family audience,” Hescott laughs. “It wasn't written for a family audience, we never intended it for a family audience, but it really worked beautifully.”
Visiting Latitude and working at Latitude were not actually very different for Hescott and his company, Fledgling. “We were there to be part of the festival, just like everyone else,” he explains. “Of course, you have to be organised and work together, but it's just the same actually. The show itself was completely different at Latitude though, surprisingly different. We found we had to be bigger at Latitude. You're competing with so much – the music coming in from outside, the people coming and going, performing in a massive tent, people shouting across the lake.”
After Latitude, Hescott took Wolves at the Window to New York and the Brits on Broadway season. “Latitude actually really informed the changes we made to the show, we toyed with a new opening, we played with some different jokes, we explored a couple of rewrites. It really helped, but then Wolves was a different beast every time we played it.”
Hescott has only glowing things to say about Latitude, both as a presenting company, and as an attendee. Perhaps the only salt in his wound would be that he didn't manage to get a ticket this year? “I'd have loved to see Hair there,” he moans. “I think that's clever to take that show, with it's Woodstock, festival feel. Also, it will have quite a different atmosphere now that they've posted closing notices. It won't be about promoting the show now, it will be more celebratory. I think it's a shame Ben Moore isn't there this year, he was one of my highlights from last year – one of the most beautiful, funny, moving pieces I've seen. I'm always interested in what the Bush do, they really understand Latitude.
nabokov, obviously. I'm gutted I'll be missing The Early Edition – I look forward to that every year!”