KITE’s three-day extravaganza wrapped up with 10,000 attendees at the stunning Kirtlington Park from 9-11th June, kicking off Friday featuring the dynamic Mauskovic Dance Band, Sarathy Korwar’s boundary-pushing Indo-jazz, and the legendary DJ Paulette spinning funky tunes into the early hours, setting the stage for a weekend of electrifying artistic expression and unforgettable experiences.
Saturday’s ideas programme featured an array of sensational moments kicking off with the new review featuring prominent figures including Marina Hyde, Layla Moran, James Harding and Michael Gove, who suggested that Boris Johnson’s hairdresser deserved an OBE for taming the ex-MPs unruly blonde locks. Then Adam Kay and Mel Giedroyc discussed the NHS, highlighting its incredible workforce while acknowledging its challenges as a political football. One of Britain’s leading political podcasters, Alastair Campbell, engaged the audience with astute observations on politics, language and mental health. And later in The Forum, Dame Joan Collins mesmerised the audience, effortlessly transforming the vast tent into an intimate space with her timeless elegance and magnetic stage presence.
Other notable speakers included Prue Leith, who dazzled with her culinary wisdom, and influencer Fats Timbo, who inspired lessons on living fearlessly and shared insights on representation, imposter syndrome, and self-confidence. Susie Dent, the wordsmith extraordinaire, enriched the audience with linguistic wisdom and emphasised the power of words. David Baddiel offered a fresh perspective on the monarchy, delving into topics such as Prince Charles, the coronation, and the Royal Family, prompting critical reflection on their societal role. And the FT’s Martin Wolfpresented radical economic visions, stimulating discussions on the future of our financial systems.
Saturday’s music lineup featured an array of sensational acts that left the crowd buzzing, from Hot Chip’s trademark grooves and psychedelic outfits delivering a funky and fun-filled performance that had everyone dancing to icon Candi Statongiving a soulful bang on her last European tour, leaving a lasting impression on the audience. Alison Goldfrapp mesmerised the KITE Stage with her enigmatic presence, donning a sparkly blue dress and accompanied by her ethereal backup dancers. The genre-blending August Charles impressed with his infectious rhythms, while Lynks left the crowd speechless at Heavenly Presents with their raunchy set, an experience that had to be seen to be believed.
Sunday’s ideas programme in The Town Hall featured Susanna Hoffs, formerly of The Bangles, who delighted the audience with humorous anecdotes, including her flirtation with Prince, closing with two special musical numbers – Eternal Flame and Manic Monday.
Rachel Reeves delivered a compelling discussion on politics, addressing her background, economic growth strategies, and the impact of 13 years of Tory rule - plus the prospect of becoming the first-ever female chancellor. And Cariad Lloyd’s powerful talk on grief resonated with the audience, offering a unique perspective on coming to terms with loss during the pandemic.
One of the festival highlights was George The Poet’s thought-provoking discussion on the cultural tensions surrounding the commercialisation of rap and gangsta rap, exploring these themes intelligently, delving into the diaspora of black music and its consumption, engaging the audience in an intelligent and insightful conversation.
Sunday’s music highlights included The Pretenders, led by the assured and charismatic Chrissie Hynde, taking the stage with the fierce intensity and commanding presence of a true rockstar, connecting effortlessly with the audience, even asking them how they were doing in the heat and proving she’s class act. Django Django made a striking entrance, exuding an air of funkiness and coolness in a harmonious blend of synthesisers and guitars, creating a big and captivating sound that effortlessly lifted the entire room. Suede closed the KITE Stage, commanding the stage with Brett Anderson’s charismatic flair and skilfully orchestrating the audience, evoking a mix of intensity, laughter, and awe. And Baxter Dury played into the concept of the festival sitting in conversation with Miranda Sawyer, then headlining the Heavenly tent later in the evening.
The comedy section featured an incredible lineup of talented performers, including Alistair Green, the viral sensation bringing his signature brand of humour to life. Then Two rising stars of comedy, Toussaint Douglass and Josh Berry, showcased their fresh and unique comedic styles, while Shazia Mirza, the creator of the Channel 4 National Comedy Award-nominated show ‘Coconut,’ delivered a set that had the audience roaring. Guiding the audience through this journey was the fabulous Kiri Pritchard McLean, the MC of the evening and host of the popular show ‘Live from the Covid Arms,’ who kept the audience engaged and entertained throughout the night.
Ciro Romano, festival director, says: “The long-awaited second-ever KITE brought immense joy and a renewed sense of togetherness. The enthusiastic response from our passionate audience reaffirmed the festival's unwavering ethos. Against the stunning Kirtlington Park backdrop, attendees revelled in a weekend of unforgettable music, thought-provoking cultural experiences, and delightful new discoveries.”
Image credits: KITE Festival