Kate Esther Tempest (born 22 December 1986) is an English poet, spoken word artist and playwright. In 2013 she won the Ted Hughes Award for her work Brand New Ancients.
Life and work
Tempest grew up in Brockley, South East London, one of five children. She describes growing up in "a shitty part of town, but in a nice house where there was always food". Her father was a labourer who went on to train as a criminal lawyer. She enjoyed her primary school experience but was unhappy at secondary school. She left school with no A levels but cites her English teacher Mr Bradshaw as an encouraging influence who read her early poetry and gave her books to inspire her. She says she had a "wayward youth", living in squats, "hanging around on picket lines rapping at riot cops". She worked in a record shop from age 14 to 18. At 16, she studied music at Croydon's Brit School for performing arts and at Goldsmiths college, where she studied poetry for a time. She describes the London marches to call an end to the Iraq war as a point of disillusionment when she saw that the message of millions of people did not change the direction of the war.
Tempest first performed when she was 16, at open mic nights at Deal Real, a small hip hop store on Carnaby Street in London's West End. She went on to support acts such as John Cooper Clarke, Billy Bragg, Benjamin Zephaniah and Scroobius Pip. She toured Europe, Australia and America with her band 'Sound of Rum' and worked with organisations such as Yale university, the BBC, Apples and Snakes, The Old Vic and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tempest has performed at such venues as the Glastonbury Festival, Latitude, The Wandering Word tent at Shambala, The Big Chill and the Nu-Yorican poetry café, where she won two poetry slams. Her first poetry book was Everything Speaks in its Own Way, followed by her first work of theatre, Wasted. At 26, she launched the theatrical spoken word piece Brand New Ancients at the Battersea Arts Centre (2012), to great critical acclaim. The piece also won Tempest the 2013 Off West End Award ("The Offies") for "Best TBC Production". Tempest's influences include Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, W B Yeats, William Blake, W H Auden and Wu-Tang Clan.
In 2014 she released a new album on Big Dada, Everybody Down, produced by Dan Carey.
The Economist said of Tempest's commission from the Royal Shakespeare Company: "A stunning piece by Kate Tempest, a London-born performance poet, comes bursting off the screen. Rarely has the relevance of Shakespeare to our language, to the very fabric of our feelings, been expressed with quite such youthful passion. (It should be mandatory viewing for all teenagers.)"The Huffington Post describes her as "Britain's leading young poet, playwright and rapper...one of the most widely respected performers in the country – the complete package of lyrics and delivery. She is also one of the most exciting young writers working in Britain today." (2012)The Guardian commented of Brand New Ancients, "Suddenly it feels as if we are not in a theatre but a church... gathered around a hearth, hearing the age-old stories that help us make sense of our lives. We're given the sense that what we are watching is something sacred."In 2013 the newspaper noted:
She is one of the brightest talents around. Her spoken-word performances have the metre and craft of traditional poetry, the kinetic agitation of hip-hop and the intimacy of a whispered heart-to-heart... Tempest deals bravely with poverty, class and consumerism. She does so in a way that not only avoids the pitfalls of sounding trite, but manages to be beautiful too, drawing on ancient mythology and sermonic cadence to tell stories of the everyday.
In 2013 she won the Ted Hughes Award for her work Brand New Ancients.