KITE Festival

As a ‘new festival of music and ideas’, Kite Festival lived up to its billing as one of this summer’s most innovative and exciting live events, writes Joe Hughes

Neapolitan Music, Tortoise Media and U-LIVE curated the festival as an optimistic environment for three days of open debate, live music and erudite conversations with some of the most relevant contemporary thinkers. This impressive undertaking sought to reinvigorate the notion that a festival should not only be a space for live music but also creative thought, the discussion of ideas and artistic ideals, and social progress. Rory Stewart, in conversation with Andrew Neil, had the unenviable task of making sense of recent political tumult, at home and abroad, covering the Tory Party, war and justice- intense topics of conversation dealt with eloquently by Stewart.

Jarvis Cocker takes us down memory lane

Jarvis Cocker’s mid- afternoon appearance with presenter June Sarpong gave the audience an insight into the objects and ephemera that had cluttered his youth and early career. From an unassuming black bin liner, Jarvis retrieved family photos, a school textbook and a polo mint tin; each came with an amusing anecdote from the naturally funny Pulp frontman.

Drag queen and model Bimini Bon Boulash sat down with Queer Bible author Jack Guiness to discuss their recently released book, ‘Release the Beast: A Drag Queen’s Guide to Life’ and their experience of coming out as non-binary. A fascinating conversation that pitched drag as the new and universally accessible punk aesthetic.

Of course, great music was in abundance too as Afro- jazz outfit Nubiyan Twist warmed campers up whilst they eased into the weekend on Friday night. A handpicked roster of artists included soul stirring from Mavis Staples and, a festival highlight, stomping pop from the inimitable Self Esteem. Indie dance veterans Saint Etienne made a return to the festival field and had the crowd swaying along in minutes to ‘Nothing Can Stop Us Now’. Contagious and charismatic, Confidence Man delivered an athletic set of their fuzzy electro-pop hits as the afternoon rolled on.

Grace Jones's dizzying hula-hoop display

Darkness fell, and cultural icon Grace Jones topped a diverse line-up as she headlined the Forum stage on Saturday night. A stunning performance from a disco legend. She kept the crowd enthralled with a dazzling series of her greatest hits, as well as innumerable costume changes. Miss Jones wowed the crowd with a dizzying hula-hoop display throughout her finale, ‘Slave To The Rhythm’.

A disco-tinged DJ set from one half of Confidence Man occupied the hardcore Kite attendees who boogied into the early hours. It was a somewhat rude awakening then, if a necessary one, on Sunday morning, as George Monbiot warned of the impending food crisis. Monibot laid bare the devastating effects of climate change and railed against humankind’s reckless consumption.

Unmissable new music came from post-rock innovators Black Country, New Road on the Heavenly stage, and Tom Misch dazzled (literally- he was accompanied on stage by an industrial glittering disco ball) in the Sunday afternoon haze. Kite truly traversed genres as it played host to the breezy folk of Katy J Pearson and the rhythmic Afrobeat of Sean Kuti. Ticketholders were afforded front row seats (or camping chairs) for a heady mix of talent.

An athletic performance from Confidence Man

As if that weren’t enough, Kite treated punters to comedy performances from the likes of David O’Doherty, and, a personal favourite, quirky Salopian Christopher Bliss. His surreal short stories had the tent in stitches. This is not to mention inspirational cultural critique from satirist Armando Iannucci, a reliably complex discussion on evolutionary possibilities from Richard Dawkins, and who would have missed a Crypto masterclass in the gently rolling Oxfordshire countryside! On a practical note, Kite nailed the logistics of the festival: the campsite was a moment’s walk from the arena, complemented by a good array of food and drink vendors, and only the poshest of portaloos! Kite’s unique line-up and alternative focus undoubtedly satiated revellers’ desire for both music and knowledge- see you next year!

Joe Hughes


Images courtesy of Borkowski PR