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“ This is not like an elitist festival for the inteligencia , it ’ s more about appealing to a broader base of people who are interested in how we live now .”

WINTER 21 / 22 | FEATURE

KITE finally set to launch

With its debut delayed by the pandemic for two years , Neapolitan Music MD Ciro Romano discusses his strategy behind new “ music and ideas ” festival KITE .
Words : Christopher Barrett

The initial kernel of the idea for the KITE Festival began to form while Neapolitan Music MD Ciro Romano wandered the fields at Wales ’ Hay Festival in 2018 . The concept ’ s germination into an event was protracted by the pandemic but , finally , the festival is set to debut on 10-12 June next year .

Blending debate and speakers with live music , KITE will be staged at Kirtlington Park – a Grade I listed Palladian house set in 3,000 acres of parkland near the Chiltern Hills in Oxford . It will be the first festival to take place there .
While Grace Jones , Mavis Staples , Tom Misch , Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and TLC are among the music acts set to perform , and comedians include Michelle de Swarte and Reginald D Hunter , the speaker line-up at the greenfield camping event features David Miliband , Delia Smith , George
Monbiot , and Jarvis Cocker . U-Live will handle the festival production and Heavenly Presents will curate the second stage , while the speaker line-up is presented by Tortoise Media , a news service founded in 2019 by a team including James Harding – the former editor of The Times and director of BBC News .
You already run projects including the 20,000-capacity Love Supreme Jazz Festival in East Sussex and the 9,500-capacity Nocturne Live concert series at Blenheim Palace . What convinced you that there is sufficient demand in the market for a festival such as KITE ? I am always looking for festival concepts that other promoters aren ’ t doing . With Love Supreme there was no outdoor British greenfield jazz festival and that became a big success after a few years . I ’ m always thinking about what is missing , what doesn ’ t exist . I was at Hay Festival in 2018 , and it was a great event with great speakers , but after maybe three or four hours I started thinking ‘ wouldn ’ t it be great if there was live music and DJs , and late night bars like a proper festival ’. Other festivals do have some speakers and talks , but it ’ s very secondary to the overall bill .
“ This is not like an elitist festival for the inteligencia , it ’ s more about appealing to a broader base of people who are interested in how we live now .”
How did you select the music acts , bearing in mind KITE ’ s attendee demographic isn ’ t typical of a music festival ? I spent time going to literary events and working out how we could combine music with it , and what kind of music that would be . It can ’ t be genre specific because people are also
IMAGE : NICHOLAS VERSTRAETEN there for the speakers , so you need to have a music line-up with wide enough appeal to interest a broader audience – you can ’ t be too populist or too niche , you have to find the balance .
I tried to choose artists that have some form of cultural resonance . Grace Jones has cultural resonance and Tom Misch means a huge amount to the younger audience . Even a band like TLC , a pop and R & B act , were very important – those productions by Babyface and Jermaine Dupris were really cutting edge and the band became a blueprint for acts like Destiny ’ s Child . The geography of this bill makes sense even though the genres are different .
How did you come to work with Tortoise on curating the speakers ? I went to speak to James Harding to get a little bit of advice on the sort of speakers we should get . We hit it off and decided to work on the event together . That was 2019 . We started booking things and then the pandemic hit and so that was it . We ’ re just getting it back on track now . Tortoise is fantastic . It ’ s an original idea of
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