Latitude: Pink sheep, live music and vaccines – festival season is back

With 40,000 people packing into Henham Park in Suffolk this weekend, Latitude festival is welcoming the largest crowds since most restrictions were lifted in England.

It is part of the government test scheme so everyone here has had to provide evidence of either a negative lateral flow test or double vaccination in order to gain entry.

And while the event’s famous pink sheep or the sheer amount of glittery outfits might seem strange to some, it’s the pop-up vaccination centre that stands out as unusual on-site.

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Vaccines were available to music-lovers at Latitude
Vaccines were available to music-lovers at Latitude

Never before required, it’s busy as people can turn up for first jabs, or their second dose as long as they’re eight weeks on from their first.

“We’re trying to increase the uptake in the younger age cohort”, said Jawn Jiang, director of GM Graham Pharmacies which has brought the vaccination bus here, in collaboration with Norfolk Community Healthcare Trust and Norfolk and Waveney CCG.

“We’re assuming festival-goers will want to go back to nightclubs when they open – following the government announcement of the double jab requirement from September.”

He admits that while they’re currently getting lots of interest – most of the enquiries are planning to wait a couple of days before they take the plunge.

“People tend to want to get their jab towards the end of the festival as they don’t want to experience side effects or feel unwell while here.”

Vaccine bus at Latitude music festival
The vaccine bus at Latitude music festival

David from Huddersfield was among those that did take up the jab.

“I’d seen the buses had been at other places so I was hoping they would be here as well,” he said.

“It’s reassuring for work particularly, especially with the relaxation of the rules coming with the test and trace – being able to test daily rather than having to sit out for 10 days.”

COVID is also making its presence known when it comes to the line-up.

Two acts – Fontaines DC and Alfie Templeman – have had to drop out after getting positive test results.

Festival organiser Melvyn Benn says it’s a “shame” those acts won’t perform but that it was an eventuality he was prepared for.

Festival goers at Latitude festival in Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk. Picture date: Friday July 23, 2021.
Some 40,000 people are attending Latitude festival

“I think most of (the acts) are existing in a little bubble until they have managed to come and play”, he told Sky News.

“We did lose a couple but there were people standing by waiting to come and play, so we have managed to replace them.”

And the show is indeed going on, with maskless crowds making the most of their first festival in two years.

But it’s not possible to completely forget about the pandemic, with volunteers handing out boxes of lateral flow tests around the site, and hand sanitiser more plentiful than it’s ever been here before.

And with COVID-passports looking like they will become the norm later this year, it might be the first time that there’s been a walk-in vaccine centre at Latitude, but perhaps it won’t be the last.

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