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Kite gains altitude

Kite gains altitude

The weekend of 10-12 June – and Kite, our new festival of ideas and music – is getting closer. Now, with even more names added to the lineup, it’s the perfect time to book your tickets

I’m not very good at the Hollywood film pitch game – where you have to explain, in as few words as possible, a new idea in terms of an old one. The definitive example, I think, is “Jaws in space” which is the *chef’s kiss* summary of Alien

I’m yet to nail it for Kite festival. I toyed with “the thinking person’s Glastonbury” but instantly judged myself for suggesting it, because who’d want to go to that? “More manageable than Edinburgh, and jollier than Hay” captures the comedy and interactivity, but misses out the music. All I can say is that it’s a new type of festival, in the glorious surroundings of Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire, that places equal emphasis on the Ideas programme of talks through the daytime and a barnstorming music lineup in the evening. 

There’ll be familiar Tortoise touches across the weekend. Come and meet the team, watch how Tortoise podcasts come together in our pop-up newsroom and take part in our biggest ThinkIns yet on the future of democracy, work, rural life, feminism and more. You can learn how to draw, how to be a poet, how to write a song and how to tell a joke. If you don’t fancy having a go at stand-up yourself, just enjoy the brilliant comedy lineup from the safety of the audience.

Last year, we announced Grace Jones, TLC, Saint Etienne and Tom Misch in the Music lineup and Elizabeth Day, Sathnam Sanghera, David Miliband, Delia Smith, Jarvis Cocker, Tina Brown, David Olusoga and George Monbiot leading the charge on Ideas. Last week, we added some more amazing names and we’ll keep on adding new speakers over the coming weeks. Many of the speakers will be doing in-person book signings at the on-site Blackwell’s bookshop. Tickets are selling fast so if you’d like to join us – for the day or the whole weekend – Tortoise members get 20 per cent off tickets

Here are the acts that have just been announced:

Richard Dawkins on defying gravity

It’s no exaggeration to say that Professor Richard Dawkins is one of the world’s greatest living scientists. The Royal Society voted The Selfish Gene the most inspiring science book of all time, and we’re excited for his upcoming book, Flights of Fancy: Defying Gravity by Design and Evolution, lavishly illustrated by Jana Lenzova, which he’ll be speaking about in his keynote address at Kite.

Bimini in conversation with Jack Guinness

Bimini captured the hearts and minds of the nation as the breakout star of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 2. Following her Sunday Times bestseller Release the Beast: A Drag Queen’s Guide to Life, Bimini will take to the forum stage at Kite to share her extraordinary story with Jack Guinness, former model, fashion commentator and diversity advocate who founded The Queer Bible, which celebrates the works and lives of the global queer community.

Devi Sridhar on pandemic prevention

Devi Sridhar is a Professor at the University of Edinburgh where she holds a Personal Chair in Global Public Health. She has risen to prominence for her vital roles in communicating science to the public and speaking truth to power, especially during the pandemic. She’ll be at Kite to discuss her latest book, Preventable: How a Pandemic Changed the World & How to Stop the Next One, which exposes the varied realities of those affected and puts you in the room with key decision makers at crucial moments. 

Armando Iannucci on Pandemonium

As the creator of Alan Partridge, The Thick Of It and Veep, Armando Iannucci is responsible for some of the funniest TV moments of the last two decades. A political commentator and comedy writer, he wrote and directed The Death of Stalin and The Personal History of David Copperfield. He will be at Kite in conversation about his latest book Pandemonium, an epic mock-heroic poem about Britain, Brexit and Covid (see Creative Sensemaker, 4 November 2021).

Julia Hobsbawm on the future of work

The entrepreneur, writer, and consultant Julia Hobsbawm specialises in addressing the challenges of the hyperconnected age, in particular remedies of what she has called “social health for organisations”. At Kite she’ll be talking about her latest book, The Nowhere Office: Reinventing Work and the Workplace of the Future.

And here’s who’s on the comedy bill:

Michelle De Swarte. After being spotted by a model scout aged 19, Michelle moved from London to New York, where she became heavily involved in the comedy scene. Since returning to London she has made her acting debut as a series regular in Netflix series The Duchess, and has signed a development deal for Channel 4 to produce her own autobiographical comedy series.

Reginald D Hunter rose to prominence on the comedy circuit early. His first visit to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1998 resulted in him reaching the final of So You Think You Are Funny, and in 2002, 2003 and 2004 was nominated for various prizes at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, going on to win the Writers’ Guild Award for Comedy in 2006. As well as appearing regularly on numerous panel shows, he hosts BBC Two’s hugely popular  Reginald D Hunter’s Songs Of The South and Reginald D Hunter’s Songs of The Border, documenting his epic road trip through 150 years of American popular song.

David O’Doherty once claimed he was the “least famous person ever to have hosted an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks.” Well, it seems the awards panels, and his audiences, don’t agree. We don’t either.

Jen Brister is a “stand up comedian, writer, actor, dickhead.” Her words, not ours. Jen has performed stand-up comedy across the UK and globally, and also contributes to BBC Scotland, BBC 6 Music, Juice FM, Diva, g3, Standard Issue and the Huffington Post. Do check out her recent appearance hosting Live at the Apollo.

Sara Barron. One of the fastest-rising comedians of her generation, Sara Barron has gone from strength to strength since her 2018 debut at the Edinburgh Fringe, appearing on numerous panel shows, selling out her slot at the Edinburgh festival and securing multiple runs in London’s Soho Theatre with her powerhouse live act. Her talents aren’t limited to the stage, either – she’s published two essay collections, People Are Unappealing and The Harm in Asking and her writing has appeared in Vanity Fair and This American Life.

Christopher Bliss

Christopher Bliss describes his interests as “writing, yoghurts, baths, Ricky Martin etc and often do all four at the same time.” The alter-ego of Comedian ​​Rob Carter, Christopher, the wannabe novelist from Shropshire (or as he calls himself, “the writer-in-residence in my very own residence”) will be brought to life on stage at Kite in what promises to be hilarious, Partridge-esque set. 

Janine Harouni 

Selected as one of the Guardian‘s ten comedians to watch in 2021, Janine’s debut Edinburgh hour, Stand Up with Janine Harouni (Please Remain Seated), was nominated for the prestigious Best Newcomer award, and sold out its entire run at Edinburgh, London’s Soho Theatre and New York. As one of the stars of the ITV 2 sitcom Buffering, and one third of the multi-award-winning sketch trio Muriel  (who Chortle has hailed as “the New Smack the Pony”), she’s seriously funny – and will be a welcome addition to Kite.

And thanks to Tortoise editor David Taylor for the first Kite Listening Party, after he went to see This Is The Kit live at the Royal Albert Hall this week:

Kite Listening Party #1: This Is The Kit – This Is What You Did

It’s a band, but really it’s a pseudonym for the great Kate Stables, who has now put out five albums of elaborate songs that don’t give up their meaning easily but wrap themselves around you just the same.

Start with ‘This Is What You Did’, the sort of inner monologue most of us have, full of second guessing, self-criticism and the imagined whispered judgments of others. 

“This is what you get

This is what you did

This is what they want

Why are you still here?” 

Rhythms and lyrics spin around your head like a cycle of self-doubt. She’s clever, playful and joyous too – and somehow, this week, Kate and her brilliant band managed to headline the Royal Albert Hall, a gig that was two years delayed and felt like she’d pulled off the most glorious scam.

Matt d’Ancona will be back next week with the usual recommendations – don’t forget to send your own to editor@tortoisemedia.com.

Hopefully I’ll see you on 10-12 June at Kirtlington Park.

Liz Moseley
Editor and Partner

Photographs courtesy Jana Lenzova, Idil Sukan, Matt Crockett, Giacomo Cannata