Creative Sensemaker: KITE takes flight

Performer at KITE Festival

If you have the good sense and the good taste to be at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire, between 10 and 12 June next year, you are – I promise you – in for a serious treat.

At this glorious venue, not far from Oxford and set in gardens designed by Capability Brown, Tortoise will be hosting its first festival of music and ideas, in collaboration with the team behind Love Supreme festival. 

Festivals, of course, are now part of the warp and weft of British cultural life, and those of us who go all have our favourite memories (I recall with particular fondness, one year at Glastonbury, discovering that Franz Ferdinand were being put up in the neighbouring Winnebago – and very nice they were, too). 

Two festival attendees

At this week’s ThinkIn on protest music, Billy Bragg reflected rather more ruefully on his decision to take Boris Johnson to Glasto in 2000. But the overall impact of British festivals has been overwhelmingly to the good in the digital age; the deep human yearning to gather in our thousands, to listen to music in real life, in the open air, is stronger than ever.

KITE, please note, is a festival with a difference: a chance to dance and sing along, for sure, but also a fiesta of ideas and conversation in true Tortoise tradition. The whole enterprise has its roots in an original lunch between our cofounder James Harding and Love Supreme’s beloved supremo, Ciro Romano. 

That was way back in 2019, and what a great idea it seemed: a chance to talk and to rave for a few days in Oxfordshire, basking (we hoped) in the June sunshine. And then… a nasty pathogen came along and forced everyone to cancel everything enjoyable for quite a long time. Getting on down was swiftly replaced by locking down.

But you can’t kill a good idea. And now, after two more years of planning and creative partnership, KITE is back with a vengeance. Today, you have a chance to sign up early at a discount price.

This week’s Creative Sensemaker is all about getting you in the mood. And I’ll admit: I’m seriously excited about our headliner, Grace Jones, who personifies, in all her vivid splendour, the place where great music, flawless style and bold living meet and fizz into creative power.

Best known for her classic albums, Nightclubbing (1981) and Island Life (1985), Jones also deserves credit for the musical innovation of more recent work like Hurricane (2008). To come and see Queen Grace in her glory, live and up close, sign up now.

And, of course, the first rule of KITE Club is… tell everybody about KITE. Bring friends and family and let’s gather next June to have an unforgettable, celebratory weekend.

Here, to whet your appetite, are some of the other acts and speakers you can look forward to (with many more to be announced):

Tom Misch against a yellow backdrop sat on a chair with his guitar looking to the right


Tom Misch
In his two studio albums Geography (2018) and 2020’s What Kinda Music (with Yussef Dayes) – plus his recent release of jams and covers, Quarantine SessionsTom Misch has developed a truly distinctive fusion of jazz-funk, exquisite guitar, electro dance, R&B and house music. There’s a debt, too, to the great chillout compilations of the nineties. Seriously infectious music that lends itself perfectly to live performance and the breezes of summer.

Saint Etienne sat at a table in a cafe all looking to camera

Saint Etienne
Three decades since joining forces, the inimitable trio of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Bob Wiggs have long ago escaped the confines of the nineties indie dance scene from which they emerged to pursue their own absolutely unique creative path. I still think So Tough (1993) is one of the best albums of the past 30 years – but see Mark St Andrew’s Creative Sensemaker review of I’ve Been Trying to Tell You (2021) for evidence of their remorseless evolution and modernity.

This Is The Kit
The musical collective that the astonishingly talented Kate Stables has gathered around her defies easy categorisation: imagine a group of folk singers from The Wicker Man, but with a taste for funk and a love of the English lyricism of bands like The Waterboys. This Is the Kit are wonderfully eclectic, and Stables draws widely upon (for instance) astronomy, numerology and the science fiction of Ursula Le Guin. She is also capable of explicit political interventions as when, in a livestream, she changed the title of ‘Easy On The Thieves’ (2017) to ‘It Is The Government’s Responsibility To Fund The National Healthcare System’. Listen to her most recent album Off Off On (2020) in preparation for the real thing.