Latitude 2015: Thursday 16th - Sunday 19th July
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Latitude Festival

Latitude Festival announces 2015 theme: For Richer, For Poorer, For Better, For Worse

For the second year, the New Statesman is media partner to Latitude, the music and arts festival in Henham Park, Suffolk.

For the second year, the New Statesman is media partner to Latitude, the music and arts festival in Henham Park, Suffolk. Last year the NS hosted events on surveillance and privacy, dystopian fiction and videogames, featuring Jimmy Wales, Meg Rosoff, Laurie Penny, Helen Lewis and Toby Litt. The music bill was headlined by Damon Albarn.

The 2014 festival theme was Secrets and Lies. The NS can exclusively announce that the 2015 theme will be For Richer, For Poorer, For Better, For Worse.

Taking its cue from the traditional marriage vow, Latitude’s literature and arts programming will explore how individuals and communities conduct our public, private, personal and – especially pertinent after May’s election – political relationships.

Tania Harrison, arts programmer for Latitude Festival said:

“Whether it’s clicking ‘yes’ to Google’s terms of service, saying ‘I do’ in a marriage ceremony, or putting an X in a political party’s box at the general election, the agreements we make affect the lives of everyone around us. Yet at the same time, there’s a tension between the world in which we’re told we’re ‘all in this together’ and our society itself, with its growing extremes of rich and poor, social media oversharing and increasingly secretive state security agencies.

"This space between a promise and its fulfillment, participation and exclusion is incredibly rich territory for the people who make art and ideas. We’re working with an array of theatre companies, writers, performers and speakers to bring the theme to life at Latitude.”

Performances and events from organisations such as Forest Fringe, Theatre Uncut, The Roundhouse and Clean Break will look at the marriage between government and the electorate as well as last year’s near-uncoupling of England and Scotland. A new piece by Action Hero called Wrecking Ball “uses Terry Richardson and Miley Cyrus’s collaboration on a music video to examine how the nature of modern celebrity, mediated as it is by online and social media, means that many of us feel we have very intimate relationships with people we’ll never really meet.”

Harrison says the programme promises to address “whether we’re happy staying married to the status quo to, or whether - in the words of many a Facebook profile – it’s complicated”.

The New Statesman will host a satellite event in London in advance of the festival. 

 

Vanessa Lubach
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Elmet leaves the metallic taste of blood in the mouth

Fiona Mozley’s debut novel digs deep into the psycho-geology of Yorkshire. 

In the autumn of 616 or 617 AD, one of the last remaining Celtic kingdoms of ancient Britain to withstand Anglo-Saxon settlement was conquered by its Northumbrian neighbours. Elmet, which covered what is now the West Riding of Yorkshire, was referred to by Bede as “silva Elmete” (“forest of Elmet”), with its devastation verified by the Historia Brittonum, which claimed that Edwin, the king of Northumbria, “occupied Elmet and expelled Certic, king of that country”. In 1979, several years before becoming poet laureate, the Celtic obsessive Ted Hughes collaborated with the photographer Fay Godwin on Remains of Elmet: A Pennine Sequence, a book that evoked the “spectacular desolation” of the Calder Valley where he grew up, a landscape saturated with myth and memory.

There is more than a hint of Hughes’s shamanistic unleashing of the power of language in Elmet, Fiona Mozley’s debut novel, a work of troubling beauty that has been longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. At once spare and ornate, Mozley’s writing digs deep into what could be termed the psycho-geology of Yorkshire, much as Alan Garner’s work does with Cheshire: the intermittent glimpses of vanished lives from centuries earlier alongside those of the present day, the trauma of past upheaval and resettlement echoing along the dark valleys.

Elmet, for all its formality and ritual style, has a modern setting but appears to inhabit a space that is outside time. Opening with a ragged account from a survivor of a savage act of destruction, the narrative moves back to the events leading up to the routing of a smallholding held by the 14-year-old Daniel and his conspicuously small family: his sister, Cathy, and their father, John, always referred to as “Daddy” or “my Daddy”.

Daddy is a giant of a man, worshipped by both children, “more vicious and more kind than any leviathan of the ocean… His music pitched above the hearing of hounds and below the trembling of trees.” Far from being carried away on a crescendo of poetic whimsy, however, the book is firmly rooted in stark realities. Daddy is a violent man, who makes his living from bare-knuckle fighting.

Having removed his children from school, he sets about building a house in a remote copse on land that he does not own. Lawless, but then so is Price, the most powerful and ruthless of the unscrupulous local landlords who dominate this ex-mining area of subsistence-level existence. The battle between Price and John is decades old, with links to the children’s vanished mother, and is as much a battle for the soul of an individual as for a plot of land. It is this agonising constriction, like one of the hunter’s bows John stretches to tautness, that Mozley emphasises.

If John is the “Robyn Hode” of legend, Cathy and Daniel are his “scrawny vagrants”, running wild in the ancient forest that surrounds their home. It is a hard life but, in Mozley’s telling, an enchanted one: rich and gamey with dark cuts of animals hunted for food, cider and roll-ups, singing till dawn and “skylarks on toast, almost whole, with mugs of hot, milky tea”. Daddy has built a fortress and a flawed paradise, in which Cathy – a mixture of Brontë-esque wilfulness (the name is surely no coincidence) and fearless warrior princess, with hair as “black as Whitby jet” and eyes “blue like the North Sea” – strives to protect her younger brother.

However, even as their precarious shelter is under siege, Daniel and Cathy are changing. Cathy is most resistant to adaptation. Like Daddy, she had “an outside sort of head”; like him, she is a loner. Daniel, though, is drawn to the world of learning and culture, as demonstrated by Vivien, an unlikely acquaintance of Daddy who gives the children informal lessons. Vivien influences Daniel in other ways, too, for this is a novel about not conforming to stereotypes, be they gendered or otherwise. Daniel’s long hair and sense of curiosity and delight in his body contrast with Cathy’s awkwardness in hers, her fatalistic awareness that as a woman she is vulnerable, a target: “We all grow into our coffins, Danny. And I saw myself growing into mine,” she tells him, just before the book’s violent culmination.

Brutal, bleak, ethereal, Mozley’s novel combines parable with urgent contemporary truths about dispossession and exploitation. Reading Elmet leaves the metallic taste of blood in the mouth: centuries old, yet as fresh as today. 

Elmet
Fiona Mozley
JM Originals, 320pp, £10.99

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear