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Bicycles and green transport encouraged at Latitude
Mogwai at the Latitude Festival
Mogwai bathed the Obelisk Arena tent in light at the first Latitude in 2006

The Latitude Festival organisers are trying to encourage greener forms of transport to the site near Southwold.

They already claim to be one of the most environmentally-friendly festivals in the country.

Now they're holding an online competition to win a no-mudguards, no-frills, single-speed bicycle.

"It's the desire to alert festival-goers to the impact of driving here in terms of the carbon footprint," said Melvin Benn, MD of Festival Republic.

Latitude Festival's carbon emissions statistics*
Car (single occupant): 344g per passenger mile
Car (four occupants): 86g per passenger mile
Coach (full): 26g per passenger mile
Train (av.occupancy): 96g per passenger mile
* quoted on the festival website

"If you're in a car on your own, you'll use around 350g of carbon dioxide per mile, whereas on a bicycle you don't use any.

"If you were in London and watched all the cycle couriers, none of them have got gears, none of them have got mud-guards, they're all very easy, very light, minimalistic bicycles, because, actually, they're the easiest to ride.

"I have one myself and they're a delight to ride."

The festival provides bike racks at the Green Gate entrance on the A145 and there are shuttle buses from Ipswich (£7 per journey) and Halesworth (£3 per journey) railway stations.

"We have a relationship with National Express coaches for travel from the big cities," said Melvin.

"We sold out in May and, generally, if you plan on the trains 28 days in advance, the ticket prices are blinking good actually."

The competition to win a single-speed cycle is on the Latitude Festival website.

Latitude Festival speaker tower
One of the speaker towers at the Obelisk stage at Latitude

Reducing carbon use by 10%

Festival Republic says its commitment to cutting the carbon footprint stretches across all its other events including Reading, Leeds and The Big Chill.

One Latitude partner is the 10:10 group which aims to cut carbon emissions at the festivals by 10% each year.

On the ground is a music industry group called Julie's Bicycle which was set up to promote green best-practise. Melvin Benn is a board member.

"There's been some really amazing breakthroughs in lighting technology," said Helen Heathfield, carbon impact assessor with Julie's Bicycle.

"Lights can use less energy and it'll still be a quite spectacular show.

"There's the potential for using bio-diesel instead of diesel and then also on-site renewables - stages with a battery that's solar-powered through to wind turbine applications.

"I have full confidence that Latitude will be achieving their 10% energy reduction this year.

"It may sound a small amount, but if we all did it, and it may involve some challenges, then there wouldn't be a problem."

In 2008, Arcola Theatre brought green technology in the form of hydrogen fuel cells to the festival's theatre stage and they're back for 2010.

Melvin Benn, Festival Republic
Melvin Benn is also involved in the running of the Glastonbury Festival

A zero-carbon festival?

The question remains as to whether a festival can be truly green when, by its very nature (light shows, sound-systems, transport etc.), it consumes a lot of energy?

"We'd all be a lot greener if we just stopped breathing!" said Helen.

"We can't all live in a box with no light, no electricity, no TV and not travel anywhere.

"I think it's important that we live and enjoy our lives and music is a massive part of that.

"Festivals have a massive role in opening up people's [environmental] awareness to what is possible. It's all part of the mix.

"We've all got to get on with it rather than sitting on our hands waiting for someone else to do it for us."

And the director of the festival concurs.

"From day one here at Latitude, the bars were all made from reclaimed materials from skips and waste tips," said Melvin.

"The cups that we serve the drinks in are deposit-based cups. I'm absolutely committed to reducing waste and Latitude is an incredibly clean festival."

Come the end of the night, some festivals look like landfill sites made of plastic beer glasses and takeaway rubbish - a sight you don't really see at Latitude.

"Although there is a contradiction on the surface of it, if you look beyond it there may be less contradiction," said Melvin.

"I will have 35,000 people here. During that 4-5 days, they will not switch their TV on, they will not use their hairdryer or electric razor, they won't be leaving lights on in the kitchen when they go to bed because they're sleeping in a tent.

"Their consumption at the festival, compared to their consumption when they would be at home, is negligible."





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