Give a festival goer a glitter pen and they’ll doodle until it runs out. Give a festival goer multiple glitter pens, fabrics, scissors, glue, magazines to chop up, pipe cleaners, flowers and tell them they can be a part of a suggestive and sexy lady-garden collage, and they will craft for hours.
It was Friday evening, the first night of Latitude Festival proper and the scene in the ‘Garden of Desires’ tent, located in the Far Away Forest, was buzzing. Parents, children, couples, singles, friends and mates all curiously wandered in to help us landscape the biggest lady-garden the festival had ever seen. The theme in the Far Away Forest was ‘Sex Vs Neuroscience: What Defines Us?’ What a meaty topic to get stuck into and right up our street! The woodland area had been transformed into Amsterdam, Latitude’s playground for ideas and experimentation, and experiment we did!
For the over 18s only were pictures of boobs, vaginas and bodies from issues of top shelf mags for them to cut out, but they were given strict instructions to disguise them amongst photos of flowers, so more innocent eyes were not exposed to anything they shouldn’t be. This was, after all, Cliterati promising to be family friendly, yet not censor the idea.
It was the more subversive combination of otherwise innocent images that had parent’s covering their children’s eyes anyway. As pictures of bananas going into sliced melons and leaping stallions from between men’s legs started to be pasted onto the lady-garden, we knew we were on to a good thing. People actually preferred rooting through more general images to create something suggestive, rather than simply cutting boobs and fannies out to stick on.
Others preferred to create peg dolls, fashioning male, female and some monster dolls, (from younger participants) while others took a swift stroll around The Garden of Desires and wrote a short fantasy on the petals of paper flowers that were then woven into trellising. Some dreamed of being famous footballers, others wanted another night of passion with a lost lover and then there were those that had downright kinky, deviant fantasies. Those flowers (or should that be deflowered) were planted way up high!
It wouldn’t be Amsterdam without sex workers, the red light district and some actual sex; our garden certainly saw all three over the course of the weekend. Cliterati was lucky enough to be sharing a ‘window’ with fabulous one-woman show, Coin Operated Girl. Former BBW escort, Melody (Miranda Kane on the stand-up circuit)spoke frankly about her time working in the sex industry, tackling head on some of the stereotypes and negativity that sex workers face, but also had enough tongue in cheek anecdotes to keep it light. Listening to her as we did our cut and paste it was refreshing to see audiences, many of which had never come into contact with a sex worker before, hang on her every word. They were genuinely interested in what she had to say and at the end of it felt confident enough to ask questions on everything from morals and ethics to ball-busting! It couldn’t have been a better coupling and it was great seeing and feeling the sexual revolution in action.
For one frisky couple sexual fantasy simply wasn’t enough. After the tent had supposedly closed and we’d taken a short break before heading back to clear up, we spied a pair of lovers fulfilling their own desires. Despite there being some super comfortable beanbags available, they decided that a roll around in the lady-garden, on the crafting tables, was what tickled their fancy. What a fitting tribute to the creation! We hastily retreated once we worked out what was going on and left them to enjoy their intimate moment amongst the fantasy flowers.
Cliterati founder, Emily was also invited by the Wellcome Trust to discuss her newly released book, Garden of Desires: The Evolution of Women’s Sexual Fantasies, which explores the many branches of female fantasy; an element of female sexuality that’s not been looked at for nearly 40 years, since Nancy Friday’s ground breaking book, The Secret Garden. Hosted in the (packed out) Literary Salon, Emily was in conversation with Sian Aggett. They discussed slut shaming, research methods, the issues around hetronormativity, the effects of drugs and alcohol on female fantasy and the audience were treated to a few seedling-sized extracts from The Garden Of Desires.
Believe it or not, there was more to see at Latitude than just us (shocking, right?). The beauty of this festival is that it’s not just all about the music, although we did do our fair share of raving to Mary-Anne Hobbs, Kraftwerk and Hot Chip, as well as indulging in late night dace classics at The Disco Shed. Most of the time was spent around the Comedy, Cabaret and Literature tent though. We laughed until we were in stitches to Marcel Lucont, Nina Conti, Dylan Moran and Eddie Izzard. Spotting the latter in the performer’s area, we managed to get up close to Mr Izzard (not in an erotic manner unfortunately) and saw that he had amazingly manicured and painted nails. If there was a contest of who had the nicest looking hands and nails at the end of the festival, he’d have won, well, hands down! His set was pretty good too…
By the end of the festival and having spent the weekend with wonderfully open minded performers and members of the public, it felt like there was a definite positivity towards sex, science, gender and everything in between. What a shame it was then, that upon return on Monday 22nd July, the headlines were touting David Cameron’s plans for a total UK porn ban. After spending such a forward thinking time at Latitude, the irony was not lost on us, but that is a debate for another time.