About to enter its second decade of its existence, the rise and rise of Latitude Festival in Suffolk has epitomised the explosion in small festivals in Britain over the last ten years.
Despite all the truisms about it being an impeccably middle-class experience (I once heard someone strolling around the campsite asking a succession of people if they had a garlic crusher.), anybody who's been even once to Latitude will testify that it really is more than just a music festival. With smaller tents and stages spread out across its spacious arena specifically dedicated to literature, poetry, performing arts, theatre, film and cabaret, its vibe is extremely relaxed, explicitly family-friendly, and very different to almost all of the major festivals.
In the spirit of not tinkering with a winning formula, the organisers have looked to build the 11th edition of Latitude along the same lines as they always have. While they've broken with their tradition of never having the same headliner twice (this year's Saturday night top billing act The National also headlined back in 2011), the list of music acts is as diverse and impressive as ever, with The Maccabees finally getting a crack at a full headlining spot on Friday and the resurgent Mancunian legends New Order closing the festival on Sunday night.
However, if you're in the market for something a little different than your normal festival trudge from stage to stage, here's six other things you can do at Latitude Festival.
1. Visit the Waterfront Stage to see some open-air ballet
Even if you're just there for the day, it's hard to avoid the open air Waterfront Stage, positioned by the main bridge, as you explore the arena. Sadler's Wells, the UK's most prestigious dance house, is returning for the ninth time in 11 editions of the festival to present an array of world-class dance, ranging from Hofesh Shechter's company to acclaimed new star Botis Seva, a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, with his company Far From The Norm. As the Waterfront Stage is open on Thursday evening, weekend ticket-holders have a chance to take in the experience before anyone else. For spectacle and setting alone, there's really nothing like it when the sun's going down.
2. Check out some poetry and literature
For those of you with a literary sensibility - or even if you simply want to do something interesting while you grab some food - the literature and poetry tents are located well away from all the music stages and toward the river. The Literary Arena, in particular, seems to get more popular each time I visit Latitude, and for the first time it has landed the prestigious Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. It will host a series of events featuring the 2016 winner Lisa McInerney, Kate Mosse, Emma Healey, Sara Pascoe and Leyla Hussein. The poetry tent, slightly smaller, will feature beat and performance poets like UK Slam Poetry Champion Hollie McNish, Jack Monroe, and ferocious punk poet Attila The Stockbroker.
3. Strike boldly into the forest to find the Theatre Arena
Hidden away in the forest, possibly the furthest-flung point in the arena, is the Theatre stage. Another growing part of the festival that regular attendees find themselves returning to increasingly, 2016 features the most ambitious and wide-reaching line-up yet. Featuring Gob Squad, Improbable & Blind Summit, Opera North, Les Enfants Terrible, the political satirist Mark Thomas, as well as the Lyric who are bringing a work-in-progress performance of their forthcoming production, The Importance of Being Earnest starring 'The Great British Bake Off's Mel Giedroyc. With one of the festival's best and comparatively non-busy bars just a stone's throw away, the Theatre Stage is a terrific place to seek refuge from the scorching mid-afternoon sun and take in some top-quality entertainment at the same time.
4. Prepare to see some properly weird stuff at the Cabaret Tent
Relatively easy to access as you walk into the arena if you're a day ticket holder, the Cabaret Tent is a terrifically fun place to go if you're slightly drunk, and pretty weird if you're sober. Either way, it's a must see. Collective act Duckie, as well as Soho Theatre and The Glory, are long-established names in the business, but the undoubted highlight of the weekend will be the appearance of one of the most celebrated figures on the cabaret scene, Dusty Limits, who will perform his long awaited debut album Grin.
5. Get there really early for the Comedy Tent
A word of caution here - the Comedy Tent is really, really small and many people tend to get there first thing in the morning only to spend all day in there, meaning most people dropping by to catch one act have to settle for craning their necks from outside the tent. This is doubly annoying when it's raining and people are seeking refuge from the elements. The Latitude experience isn't really complete without visiting the Comedy Tent, however, and industry heavyweights like Bill Bailey, Josh Widdicombe and Russell Howard are performing among a host of other star names. But be organised!
6. Wander around in the forest
Up in the hills in the woods is one of the quieter parts of Latitude, but it's where the spirit of the festival is really to be found. The Sunrise Arena and the BBC Introducing stages are here, as well as random art installations, tiny bars and sound systems. This was where Ed Sheeran performed two surprise sets at 2015's Latitude, just a week after he had played three massive sold-out gigs at Wembley Stadium, so if any rumours begin to break over the festival, you're sure to find them here!