Launching a new festival has never been for the faint hearted, but few years have been more beset by difficult market conditions than 2022. Having overcome nerve-shredding, last-minute challenges to stage the debut Kite festival in June, Neapolitan Music MD Ciro Romano is preparing for the return of the event to Kirtlington Park in Oxford next year.
Ciro Romano’s Neapolitan Music, which also promotes events including the 23,000-capacity Love Supreme Jazz Festival, teamed with production company U-Live, James Harding’s long-read editorial platform Tortoise Media and indie label Heavenly Recordings to launch “music and ideas” festival Kite on 10-12 June.
Blessed by glorious sunshine, a stunning setting, a high-end production, and featuring a refreshingly diverse blend of music talent such as Grace Jones and Tom Misch along with speakers ranging from Ai Weiwei to Jarvis Cocker, Kite was met by rave media reviews and positive attendee feedback. However, while the punters had been soaking up the atmosphere and entertainment, behind the scenes Romano’s team were working flat-out dealing with last-minute changes – the most dramatic being the abcence of the event’s main stage.
“We were like swans, it all appeared calm on the surface but there was plenty of flapping away underneath,” says Romano.
On the eve of the event the team were told that the main stage was stuck in Brockwell Park where it had been used for the Mighty Hoopla.
“They couldn’t deliver the stage to us because of a lack of crew and transport issues, so on the eve of Kite we had to re-programme the whole event,” says Romano. “It was a very difficult time but we have a first-class production team led by U-Live’s Mandy Johnson. You need cool heads when things like that happen and Mandy, who has worked with me since the beginning of Love Supreme, dealt with it brilliantly.”
Prior to the gates opening, Romano had the not inconsiderable challenge of generating awareness and winning over first-time ticket buyers.
He says the hardest thing was conveying the concept: “It took us a long time to really make people understand what it is, but once they were on site they got it. It is a difficult market at the moment, there are economic factors, and it is always challenging with a first-time event but we did ok, everyone involved is happy with the result.
“I would not have gone into the market with a new event unless it was a fresh and novel concept; the way we marketed it and the content was laid out was different to anything else in the market.”
Looking ahead to next year, Romano says the intention is to try for an attendance of 8,000 and follow in the footsteps of Love Supreme: “Love Supreme had a 5,000 attendance in the first year and now it’s almost 25,000. I would never have dreamed that would have happened when I started working on the first one.”
Having seen the strong reaction to Kite’s speaker content, Romano says the ‘In Conversation’ strand will be expanded next year: “We will have more speaker stages because they were all overflowing from the first morning session onwards.
“When you are launching an event you have to accept it is going to be a challenge, especially if it is a new and novel concept. For us, Kite is about creating an aesthetically pleasing environment and capturing the imagination of audiences. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and we now have a strong platform to build on.”