Kate Tempest at Haldern Pop Festival in 2017
Kate Esther Calvert
22 December 1985
|Occupation||Poet, playwright, rapper, recording artist|
|Hopelessly Devoted, Wasted, Brand New Ancients, Everybody Down, Hold Your Own, The Bricks That Built The Houses, Let Them Eat Chaos|
|Genres||Spoken word, hip-hop|
|Labels||Fiction, Big Dada, Ninja Tune, Lex|
Kate Tempest (born Kate Esther Calvert, 22 December 1985) is an English spoken word performer, poet, recording artist, novelist and playwright. In 2013, she won the Ted Hughes Award for her work Brand New Ancients. She was named a Next Generation Poet by the Poetry Book Society, a once-a-decade accolade. Her albums Everybody Down and Let Them Eat Chaos have been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. The latter's accompanying poetry book (also titled Let Them Eat Chaos) was nominated for the Costa Book of the Year in the Poetry Category. Her debut novel The Bricks That Built the Houses was a Sunday Times bestseller and won the 2017 Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Breakthrough Author. She was nominated as Best Female Solo Performer at the 2018 Brit Awards.
Tempest grew up in Brockley, South East London, one of five children. She worked in a record shop from age 14 to 18. She went to Thomas Tallis School, leaving at 16 to study at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology in Croydon, going on to graduate in English Literature from Goldsmiths, University of London. Tempest first performed when she was 16, at open mic nights at Deal Real, a small hip-hop store in Carnaby Street in London's West End. She went on to support acts such as John Cooper Clarke, Billy Bragg and Benjamin Zephaniah. She toured internationally with her band Sound of Rum until they disbanded in 2012 before being commissioned to write her first play, Wasted.
In 2013, Tempest released her first poetry book Everything Speaks in its Own Way, a limited edition run on her own imprint, Zingaro. 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 Herald Angel and The Ted Hughes Prize. Some of Tempest's influences include Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, W B Yeats, William Blake, W H Auden and Wu-Tang Clan.
In September 2013, her play Hopelessly Devoted was produced by Paines Plough and premiered at Birmingham Rep Theatre.
Since the release of Everybody Down, Tempest has increased touring as a musician, playing at festivals and headlining shows with her live band which consists of Kwake Bass on drums, Dan Carey on synths and Clare Uchima on keyboards.
In October 2014, her first poetry collection for Picador, Hold Your Own, was published. The collection was a commercial and critical success and its release coincided with Tempest being named a Next Generation Poet.
Tempest was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2015.
In September 2016, it was announced that Tempest would curate the 2017 Brighton Festival. She released the album Let Them Eat Chaos on 7 October 2016. It debuted at no. 28 on the UK Albums Chart, and was also released in book format (Picador). The album was also nominated for the Mercury Prize, this time in 2017. She was nominated for Best British Female Solo Performer at the 2018 Brit Awards.
In November 2019, along with other public figures, Tempest signed a letter supporting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election. In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, she signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few."
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, the first person under the age of 40 to win the award, and was selected as one of the 2014 Next Generation Poets by the Poetry Society.
Tempest has received wide critical acclaim for her written and live work. A performance of Brand New Ancients prompted the New York Times to say “As gorgeous streams of words flow out, they conjure a story so vivid it’s as if you had a state-of-the-art Blu-ray player stuffed into your brain, projecting image after image that sears itself into your consciousness” while a review by Michiko Kakutani of her poetry collections in the same paper explored her written style: “While her intense performances on stage add a fierce urgency to the words, these text versions of her work stand powerfully on their own on the page...using her pictorial imagination to sear specific images into the reader’s mind”.
She has been published in nine languages.
Everybody Down was nominated for the 2015 Mercury Music Prize and Let Them Eat Chaos have been nominated for the 2017 Mercury Music Prize. Her accompanying poetry book Let Them Eat Chaos was nominated for the Costa Book of the Year in the Poetry Category in 2016. She was nominated as Best Female Solo Performer at the 2018 Brit Awards.
- 2012: Everything Speaks in its Own Way
- 2013: Brand New Ancients
- 2014: Hold Your Own
- 2016: Let Them Eat Chaos
- 2018: Running Upon The Wires
Spoken word performance
- 2012: Brand New Ancients – Ted Hughes Award 2013 (2014 released as CD)
- 2013: Wasted
- 2014: Glasshouse
- 2014: Hopelessly Devoted
- 2016: The Bricks That Built the Houses, Bloomsbury Circus, London
- 2011: Balance (with "Sound of Rum")
- 2014: Everybody Down – nominated for Mercury Prize 2014
- 2016: Let Them Eat Chaos - nominated for Mercury Prize 2017
- 2019: The Book of Traps and Lessons
- 2014: "Our Town"
- 2014: "Hot Night Cold Spaceship"
- 2015: "Bad Place for a Good Time"
- 2016: "Guts (with Loyle Carner)"
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