Over the weekend, we enjoyed performances from Grace Jones, Self Esteem and Confidence Man alongside invigorating talks from Bimini Bon Boulash and Mandu Reid


Taking to Kirtlington Park in Oxfordshire from 10-12 June, Kite Festival closed on a jubilant, LGBTQI-inclusive first festival last night. Ten thousand punters from across the country flocked to enjoy a weekend of music, comedy and ideas designed to invigorate debate and creative discussions alike in what was a roaring success.

A huge success for female representation in music, the majority of the featured acts were female-led. A stunning example on platforming and practising Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in music, Grace Jones, Mavis Staples, Saint Etienne, Self Esteem, Katy J Pearson and more graced the stages. On Saturday afternoon, Jarvis Cocker – in conversation with June Sarpong – embarked on a journey of discovery in sharing the previously forgotten contents of his East London loft. Anecdotally revealing that he would regularly shove random objects into this cupboard before his mother’s imminent arrival, he shared random tit bits from his high school science book detailing everything from the “Pulp masterplan” to the ballerina-spinning alarm clock he used during the Thatcher years. “No one can sleep for 24 hours a day, but God knows I tried”, he laughed.

Bimini Bon Boulash, star of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 2. Image: Kite Festival.

Then, Drag Race UK royalty Bimini Bon Boulash – self-described as East London’s bendiest bitch – graced the stage with writer Jack Guinness, editor of The Queer Bible featuring essays from Lady Phyll, Paris Lees, Munroe Bergdorf and more. Starting off with a demonstration on how to walk the runway like a pro, citing her teacher as “Naomi Campbell” not because she “taught me personally, but because I stalked her”, Bimini laughed. Covering everything from coming out as non-binary to finding themselves dressing to the nines in £2.50 charity shop bargains as a teenager, Bimini was poised and regal, as per. They even treated us to a stunning rendition of their UK Hun? verse.

Janet Planet of Confidence Man. Image: Kite Festival.

Mavis Staples was tasked with kicking off the music on Saturday afternoon and boy did she deliver. Known for hits from You Are Not Alone to If I Ever Needed Someone, Mavis is a giant of The Staple Singers. She recently featured on Humanz by Gorillaz, and she was, delightfully, full of beans in spite of the power outage that cut her set short. Next up was the queen of self-empowerment, Self Esteem. As ever, she stormed onto the stage in true pop powerhouse fashion, playing hits from the poetic I Do This All The Time to the playful Moody. Her hat choice was excellent, too.

Self Esteem. Image: Kite Festival.

Saint Etienne graced the stage with hits from Only Love Can Break Your Heart to Sylvie, before Confidence Man catapulted onto the alternative Heavenly Presents stage with energetically camp dance pop with stunning choreography to suit. With three costume changes, Janet Planet leapt onto the stage after a brief interval wearing a light-up cone bra, channelling Madonna during the Blond Ambition World Tour of 1990.

Next came the main event: headliner Grace Jones. There’s only one word to describe her performance: legendary. Entering wearing a gold skull mask and black cape, she opened with classic Nightclubbing, going on to deliver hits from Love Is The Drug to I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango). Pull Up To The Bumper was transformed into an eight or so-minute-long elongated version, with Grace hula hooping across the stage for the entirety of the track. Joyously interacting with the audience, she took us to Paris with her beret for Libertango and to New York for Pull Up To The Bumper, screaming “let’s go to New York! Take me to New York.” This performance was truly the stuff dreams are made of.

Grace Jones. Image: Kite Festival.

Ciro Romano, festival director, stated: “After the enforced delay, it was truly joyful for me to see the festival finally come together. I am so thrilled that our audience was so enthusiastic and embraced the ethos of the inaugural KITE festival. As the sun went down on an idyllic Kirtlington Park, I hope festival goers reflected on a weekend of vibrant music, cultural stimulation, intelligent interaction, fabulous food, and something newly discovered. We can’t wait to announce plans for 2023.”

On the ever-so-slightly quieter Sunday, Melodic indie musician Katy J Pearson played, alongside the universally liked glittering disco, jazz, hip-hop saturated Tom Misch and experimental Black Country, New Road. All in all, Kite Festival’s first year was an absolute treat. We’ll be back next year.

To keep up with Kite Festival, follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Kite Festival Aftervideo. Credit: Kite Festival.

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