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Born Kate Esther Calvert
22 December 1985 (age 30)
Brockley, South East London, England
Occupation Poet, playwright, rapper, recording artist
Notable work Hopelessly Devoted, Wasted, Brand New Ancients, Everybody Down, Hold Your Own
Genres Spoken word, hip-hop
Labels Big Dada, Ninja Tune
Kate Tempest (born Kate Esther Calvert, 22 December 1985) is an English poet, spoken word artist and playwright. In 2013 she won the Ted Hughes Award for her work Brand New Ancients. In 2015-16, she was a visiting fellow in the Department of English, University College, London.
1 Life and work
4 External links
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”, and developing her work ethic by seeing her father go from working as a labourer, through night-school to becoming a criminal lawyer by the time she was eight years old.
She enjoyed her primary school experience but was unhappy at secondary school. She 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 at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology in Croydon and she went on to graduate in English Literature from Goldsmiths, University of London.
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 venues such as Glastonbury, 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, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, W B Yeats, William Blake, W H Auden and Wu-Tang Clan.At the Barbican launch of ‘The Bricks that Build the Houses’, Tempest explained how many people thought of Virginia Woolf when reading her work but she had never actually read much Woolf. Tempest also explained how all writers and artists are using the same material, the bubbling content of humanity, and that this causes continuities between writers, even those that have not read one another.
In 2014 she released the album Everybody Down (Big Dada), which was produced by Dan Carey and was nominated for the 2014 Mercury Prize. In January 2015 the album was given the inaugural “Soundcheck Award” for the best album of 2014 by Radioeins and Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin.
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., and was selected as one of the 2014 Next Generation Poets by the Poetry Society.