Instagram’s algorithm knows that I have neither the confidence nor the money to buy proper art, so it is relentlessly pursuing me with ads for companies that make giant prints of song lyrics instead. It’s working.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect encapsulation of millennial life than the opening line of ‘Moody’ by Self Esteem, “Sexting you at the mental health talk seems counterproductive.” And it is fitting that Self Esteem – whose Prioritise Pleasure was named album of the year by the Guardian in 2021 – is also featured in both the Ideas and the Music programmes at Kite Festival next weekend (June 10-12).
She’ll be interviewed by Jude Rogers on Saturday afternoon on The Town Hall stage about her life and work, before taking to the main Kite Stage to perform with her band.
Sheffield’s finest export, Pulp, have a bucketload of strong lyrical contenders for a big print. “Is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel? Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?” from ‘Sorted for Es and Whizz’ would be apt. The band’s much-loved frontman Jarvis Cocker will be talking to June Sarpong about his new book Good Pop, Bad Pop (featured in last week’s Creative Sensemaker) on Saturday 11 June at The Forum Stage.
I was heartened to read in his book that Jarvis shares my penchant for lovely plastic carrier bags. My most precious is an LP-sized bag bearing the name of one of my favourite albums of all time, Foxbase Alpha. Saint Etienne – whom I haven’t seen live since Glastonbury in 1994! – play the main Kite Stage on Saturday 11 June.
Treats on the big stages are, of course, easy to find; but the joy of any festival is in discovering treasure in far-flung corners of the site. I’ll be making a beeline for The Pod on Sunday afternoon to join in a live, interactive songwriting session led by Eg White, the Ivor Novello-winning songwriter who has written bangers for and with Adele, Will Young, Rihanna and almost everyone else you can name.
This being a Tortoise event, there’s plenty to chew on intellectually, with ThinkIns on rural life, female representation in politics, foreign policy and white debt, as well as another session in our ongoing democracy tour. And if you drop by the pop-up Tortoise newsroom, our audio team will take you “Inside the Investigation”, revealing the story-behind-the-story of our biggest investigations to date.
But if I really am going to buy myself a giant lyric print to commemorate my Kite festival experience – as much as I’d like to opt for something profound and moving – I fear that Bimini and the UK Drag Race queens’ “Bing, Bang, Bong, Ding, Dang, Dong, UK hun?” is more accurate. Bimini will be on stage with Jack Guinness on Saturday afternoon.
With just over a week to go, behind the scenes it’s less “fly a kite” than “fly by the seat of our pants”. But the show will go on, the sun will surely shine and we’ll all have a lovely time. I do hope to see you there.
Editor, Partner and Kite Flyer
…and just in case you haven’t bought your ticket yet, here, selected by James Wilson and Matt d’Ancona, are a few more reasons why you really won’t want to miss out:
This Is The Kit
There are few more compelling and enchanting musical acts than Kate Stables and her band. Championed in their early years by a hardcore of devoted fans and BBC Radio 6 Music DJs, they have graduated to the top tier of performers with their mesmerising folk rock, full of emotional nuance and lyrical magic. Check out their most recent EP Off Off Oddities to sample their unique sonic brew – and prepare yourself for an unforgettable live experience on the Kite Stage on Sunday.
A true cultural legend, Ai Weiwei is celebrated both for his democratic activism and his accomplishments as documentarian, architect, author and visual artist. And who better to discuss his life and work with him than Robert Diament, presenter of the terrific Talk Art podcast? They’re in the Town Hall on Saturday.
How to write a joke
Funny people make it look so easy. The reality? Not so easy at all. Those who are the best at it – professional standup comedians – usually devote years to learning how best to tickle people’s funny bones. It’s a craft that award-winning comedian Gráinne Maguire knows a thing or two about. She’s appeared on UnSpun with Matt Forde and The Now Show and has written for programmes including Mock The Week, The Last Leg and 8 Out of 10 Cats. And luckily for you, she’ll be at The Pod at Kite on Saturday 11 June to impart her wisdom in a show that promises to be 50 per cent learning, 50 per cent lolling. You’ll learn what makes some jokes work and others fall flat and, if you’re feeling brave enough, get to try out some of your new skills yourself.
Tina Brown on the Royal Family
If you’ve read Tina Brown’s latest book, The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor – the Truth and the Turmoil – or her riveting exploration of the life and times of Diana, Princess of Wales – you will know that this is not to be missed. In the Town Hall on Sunday, she’ll be talking about the past, present and future of the monarchy, and the competing personalities and factions within the royal family.
After bringing her deadpan sense of humour over from Australia 12 years ago, few have enjoyed such a meteoric rise through the ranks of British comedy as Heidi Regan. She scooped one of standup’s most prestigious gongs in 2016, the Edinburgh Fringe’s “So You Think You’re Funny?” prize, and then another gong the next year – the BBC New Comedy Award. She’ll be performing in Kite’s Forum tent on Saturday, 11 June.
Reginald D. Hunter
Appearing at the Forum on Sunday, Reginald D. Hunter is one of the UK comedy scene’s favourite performers – and with good reason. Born in Albany, Georgia, he is hilarious on everything from living here (“the Africa of white people”) and why he doesn’t respect Batman, to his own superpowers and Margaret Thatcher. If you haven’t caught his act, now’s the chance to see the brilliance that you’ve been missing.
Can white debt ever be repaid?
Almost two centuries have passed since slavery was abolished in Britain – so why are we still so reluctant to talk about the industry’s terrible legacy? For Thomas Harding, the author of White Debt, that question became a quest when he discovered that his mother’s family had profited from plantations worked by slaves of African descent. Join him along with Tortoise editor and co-founder James Harding and Sathnam Sanghera, journalist and author of the acclaimed Empireland, for a ThinkIn on how the descendants of those who were enriched by slavery can acknowledge the past and truly take responsibility.
How to make a hit podcast
So you want to be a podcaster? Well, then: on Saturday 11 June, come along and hear two undisputed masters of the craft – Jamie Bartlett, whose BBC series The Missing Cryptoqueen told the unbelievable story of the rise, disappearance and fall of Dr Ruja Ignatova, and Tortoise’s very own Alexi Mostrous, who turned the catfishing tale of Sweet Bobby into a global podcasting phenomenon. Then, on Sunday, head for the Town Hall to hear Alexi interview Kirat Assi, the woman at the heart of this extraordinary story, in Sweet Bobby Live.
Rory Stewart on war and justice
A former soldier, diplomat, and cabinet minister – and contender for the Conservative leadership in 2019 – Rory Stewart is in danger of becoming a national treasure before his 50th birthday. His trademark is political integrity: come to the Town Hall on Saturday and hear him tackling the challenges of international development, the notion of the “just war” and Britain’s strategic role in the world. Never boring, always stimulating: you won’t want to miss this.
… and finally, please be upstanding for Miss Grace Jones
There are stars – and then there are stars. Our Saturday headliner on the main Kite Stage is celebrated for her terrific music, impeccable style and flawlessly bold way of living. To get yourself in the mood, listen again to her classic albums, Nightclubbing (1981) and Island Life (1985) – and remember that this is a woman who had her baby shower at Studio 54 and “flew on the Concorde so many times I knew the pilots. I knew their families. I could have flown the plane, except I would have wanted to do it naked, sprayed silver, in roller skates.” A mythic musical life force, performing before your very eyes.
Kite Festival will be taking place at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire on 10-12 June. If you haven’t already grabbed your tickets, you can do so here – there are still a few left.
For more information and the full lineup, head to Kite’s website, and give the festival a follow on Twitter and Instagram.
Photographs Robin Little/Redferns, Olivia Richardson, Tom Jamieson for The New York Times, Ai Wei Wei Studio, Idil Sukan/Draw HQ, Ed Miles/Evening Standard/eyevine, Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images, Daniel Hambury/Evening Standard/eyevine, Andy-Sturmey