TICKETS AVAILABLE AT BATTERSEA ARTS CENTRE
18 – 20 April
Click here to book tickets.
18 – 20 April
Click here to book tickets.
by Marianna Warley
Everyone’s buzzing with the news that Kate Tempest has signed a record deal with the amazing Big Dada record label, known to many as the home of British hip-hop. Signing artists such as the renowned rapper Wiley, Roots Manuva, Congo Natty, and the Mercury Prize winning Speech Debelle, we could not think of anywhere more appropriate for Kate to broaden her horizons even further!
Big Dada (in association with Ninja Tunes) came about in the late 90’s coinciding with the worldwide rapid growth in popularity of hip-hop when Ninja Tunes approached Will Ashon, a hip-hop journalist. Ashon was determined to create a label that would concern itself solely with making music, not making money (how refreshing).
They started off focusing mainly on underground hip-hop; the first single they released was a collaboration between Luke Vibert and Juice Aleem (‘Alpha Prhyme’) called ‘Misanthropic’. Since then Big Dada has moved onto what they describe as ‘a full range of black music, whatever that means’, and have been quite good at it too; NME said the label was “not only a platform for the British urban underground but also attracts some of the most progressive wordsmiths and beat-scientists in the whole world… Big Dada are still pushing things forward”, so it’s exciting to think how far they will take Kate.
It’s an understatement to say that Kate has a way with words as we all know from her epic spoken-word performances in Brand New Ancients and more, and though we mainly know her for being a poet/spoken word artist, rap and hip-hop have always been a massive influence. Kate has been rapping since she was sixteen which is definitely reflected in her work. ‘I used to be so hungry to rap at people that I used to rap in cyphers on street corners, on trains, on buses, to strangers, at parties….everywhere.’- so in short, it comes naturally.
Although this is her first ‘solo’ record deal, Kate has previously made several albums with a trio ‘Sound of Rums’ which was pretty well received in the hip-hop world; “she has no right whatsoever to be as good as she is”, Scroobius Pip, ‘her works are truly of upliftment and betterment’-straight from Roots Manuva himself.
Though it seems hard to believe Kate could better herself any further since then, she has, with an almost sold out tour of Brand New Ancients, things are looking good. Its great to see after 10 years of hard, hard work Kate is getting the fully deserved recognition she deserves, Big Dada must be celebrating their early retirement already. Everybody Down (Kate’s new album), will be released on 19 May. We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait.
FIVE STARS from the New York Times for Brand New Ancients.
St. Ann’s Warehouse
14 Jan. 2014 | Charles Isherwood
Click on the image to read more.
On Friday 22nd November 2013 Kate Tempest appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, where she discussed all things Brand New Ancients and the impact that writing the play had on her life.
You can catch the episode, presented by Kirsty Lang, by clicking the image below.
19 Nov. 2013 | Olivia Farrant
On 10 January 2014 Kate Tempest will land in New York City; bringing a bit of South East London across the pond with Brand New Ancients at St Ann’s Warehouse. With New York being the home of so many great figures in poetic history, it’s fitting that Brand New Ancients makes its international spoken-word debut here.
Hip-Hop, one of Kate’s biggest passions and influences, originated at block parties on the roaming streets of New York City. Like the Beat poets before them they were able to voice their thoughts and opinions on society in a world where they struggled to be heard. By combining poetry and rap, two art forms resonant in American history, Kate has created unique and powerful spoken-word that sees the Gods of today all around us.
The US premier will run from 10 – 19 January 2014 with tickets on sale to the general public from 21 November.
Don’t forget if you’re not US based you can still see Kate perform Brand New Ancients in the UK:
SPITALFIELDS WINTER MUSIC FESTIVAL – SOLD OUT
16 DECEMBER 2013
THE YOUNG VIC - SOLD OUT
3 JANUARY 2014
7 JANUARY 2014
ST ANN’S WAREHOUSE
10 – 19 JANUARY
SOUTHBANK CENTRE - SOLD OUT
29 JANUARY 2014
14 – 15 FEBRUARY 2014
21 -22 FEBRUARY 2014
THE NORTH WALL, OXFORD
25 – 26 FEBRUARY 2014
WEST YORKSHIRE PLAYHOUSE
27 – 28 FEBRUARY 2014
7 – 8 MARCH 2014
HARROW ARTS CENTRE
20 MARCH 2014
22 MARCH 2014
BATTERSEA ARTS CENTRE
18 – 20 APRIL 2014
At Battersea Arts Centre
10 Sept. 2012 | Lyn Gardner
There’s a moment halfway through Kate Tempest‘s spoken-word theatre show when the gloom intensifies and the vaulted ceiling is lit up by the glow from the streetlights outside, pouring in through squares cut in the blacked-out window. At this point, Tempest’s growling sandpaper voice takes on a mesmerising sing-song quality, and Nell Catchpole’s score pulses and soars. Suddenly it feels as if we are not in a theatre but a church, not in a Victorian debating chamber but 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.
Tempest’s everyday epic of small heroics and bad behaviour recasts the ancient gods as two London families – and in particular two half-brothers – whose lives are unknowingly entwined. There is a touch of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, which itself draws on Greek tragedy, but Tempest’s story of small people struggling to be superheroes is gritty and gobby. False gods – including Simon Cowell – are lambasted with searing anger, and humanity is celebrated in all its terrible imperfections. Tempest’s compassionate show is the antidote to the weary cynicism that says we can change nothing.
Spoken-word theatre is often heavy on words and light on theatre. Tempest’s piece follows these conventions, but transcends them. Just as in her narrative, the ordinary is lifted into the extraordinary; score, writing, band and voice come together to create a package that never makes you question why you aren’t just reading or listening to this. That’s because Tempest, fierce and shy in the same moment, is such a genuinely galvanising presence and acutely responsive to her audience. It matters that we are there; it matters that these stories are told. It matters that we listen.
Rapper, musician, playwright – and this year’s Ted Hughes Poetry Award winner – Kate Tempest explains to us why south London is the bee’s knees
People are usually surprised by Kate Tempest. A youthful-looking 26-year-old, with a mass of messy blonde hair, tattoos and rings, Tempest doesn’t stand out on her home streets of south London. But she is one of the most exciting things to happen to poetry – and SE15 – since William Blake encountered a treeful of angels on Peckham Rye. Her intense performances mix music, rhythm and rhyme and are delivered in a searching, passionate voice. Her play ‘Brand New Ancients’ won this year’s Ted Hughes poetry prize and transforms the stories of south Londoners into myth-like tales.
What is it with you and south London?
‘It’s taught me everything I know. In “Brand New Ancients” there’s a dedication to the areas of London that raised me – it’s almost beyond a place that I live. It’s taken care of me and taught me. And scared the life out of me.’
Are the people in your Royal Court play from the area?
‘I didn’t sit down to write character profiles thinking, they must all be from south London, but I do namecheck Lewisham and Peckham. “Brand New Ancients” is a summary of everything I’ve been trying to say for a long time. If I think of the landscape they are in, it’s south London.’
Where did you get your first break?
‘When I first started, there were these open-mic nights in a record store called Deal Real on Carnaby Street in central London, but when it closed down, everybody moved to the Jamm in Brixton. I did one of my first gigs at Goldsmiths College when I was about 17 and there was nobody there. New Cross was quite rundown but exciting, it’s basically where I cut my teeth.’
New Cross is touted as the new Peckham, which is the new Dalston. Has south London changed?
‘As with anybody who has an important time in an area, that stretch of road doesn’t mean the same anymore. But yeah, buildings have changed, bars are different and the energy and the attitude is different. But that’s just life.’
What did it mean to win the Ted Hughes Award?
‘It meant a great deal. People often say I give a great performance but this was about the work. You’re meant to take all that kind of stuff in your stride but I just felt shock and elation. It’s lovely to have recognition – it took ten years of performing and rapping to get here.’
Doesn’t living in the city ever get you down?
‘Everyone who lives here agrees to deal with the insanity. It’s beautiful and full-on and filled with magical stuff that happens every day. For a writer it’s a great place to live because you can be close enough to observe people without being voyeuristic.’
10 Nov. 2013 | Louis Wise
Kate Tempest got her break as a performance poet at a poetry slam, naturally, in London’s Ladbroke Grove. Not that she’s your usual spoken-word type,
whinnying about her feelings in a far-flung vegan cafe. Far from it. A regular little sarf-east Londoner, comfy in her blue denim Nikes, she was only there on a punt.
shrugs. “I found myself doing it ’cos I had all these rap lyrics. My friend took me to this slam where you got£100 if you won. I just went with her, and won it.” It was a revelation — mostly financial. “Suddenly, you get 50 quid for doing a 20-minute set. I know it sounds like a ridiculous thing — but I ’m a jobbing writer!”
Cut to a few years later and the jobbing writer made her way to w est London again, but for an event of an entirely different calibre. Y ou couldn’t make it up: Tempest, 26, had to go from Hollow ay Prison, w here she’d been doing a workshop, to a “posh house in Mayfair” as a nominee for the Ted Hughes Aw ard for New Work in Poetry. “O oh,” she cringes, “it w as horrible.” Except it wasn’t. She w on.
Which is how we end up today talking about Brand New Ancients, the w ork that clinched it for her. I t’s an astonishing 70-minute m onologue, performed to a musical accompaniment, which you could crudely sum up as EastEnders on Olympus: a vision of Tempest’s world, w here her
SE-something peers, struggling to live day to day, are given the scope and dignity of the gods of old. I ts peculiarity is underlined on the title page:
“This poem w as written to be read aloud.” So there w as some surprise in May fair.
Six months on, the prize’s effects are clear. I t has enabled a full tour of the work, which w ill take her across some of Britain’s brightest venues — even into the Royal Opera House. Tempest spent the £5,000 prize money on the year’s rent for a studio in leafy West Norwood, near where she has always lived.
When we first sit down there to chat, Tempest is warm but wary. She doesn’t much want to go over her past and would really, really like to focus on the work. I t’s understandable: she doesn’t want to be the rap-girl ingenue for ever, some Alice stuck in a literati Wonderland. Yet who she is so clearly informs what she writes, in form and in content. See her show, whatever you want to call it — poetry, theatre, even a civilised type of old-school hip-hop — because it has its place and its worth.
Recognition has not come easily. “Throughout my whole time of doing this, people always thought I was gonna be shit. Always! I think that’s where I got a lot of my fire from — I had something to prove.”
As a child, Kate, the youngest of five, would w rite stories and poems, perform. Her father, a law yer, writes too, while her mum has a family tree of entertainers, including a ballerina, an opera singer and some music-hall performers. The teenage Tempest went to work in a record shop. The tiny blonde in baggy clothes and large specs ended up in the hardcore ragga section — and loved it. Ragga, dancehall, hip-hop, soul took over her life, and she set out on her first dream, to be a rapper. Which, as we now know, somehow led her to Mayfair.
She still raps. Is there much difference between her rap lyrics and her poetry? “I used to say there’s no difference. When I started telling poems, I began them as raps, then I wrote them out… a bit… slow er!” She bursts out laughing. Now she thinks completely differently: “Poetry has metre and rap lyrics have flow .” Beyond that, she doesn’t want to delineate too much. Her career, after all, has been built on breaking down those boundaries.
She went to the Brit School and got a literature degree at Goldsmiths, but she’s not too keen on academia — “It smashes your instinct down.” Far better to rely on your hunches, like a love of good old-fashioned verse. (“I love rhyme! I love it so much!”) She know s she’s in good company . “Byron? He was like an old-school battle rapper, wasn’t he?”
Tempest is writing a new volume of poems (“It’s gonna be for Picador, really proper”), and she will be working with an editor for the first time, the poet Don Paterson. She’s rather liking her immersion in a world she didn’t know much about, and relishing the know ledge on offer. Brand New Ancients, for instance, got a kick up the backside when the director Ian Rickson (Jerusalem) gave her some tips on it in Edinburgh. “Suddenly, I felt kind of cared for, in a way I didn’t feel before.”
Brand New Ancients is beautiful but unutterably bleak; it’s in the vein of the play she w rote in 2011, Wasted, w hich sees three friends make hopeless bids for change. I t’s not miserabilism, she says: “I t’s reality, isn’t it? And, actually, that doesn’t stop anything being beautiful. But things are f****** difficult for a lot of people.” Her conscience is heightened, her politics unavoidable. “I f you’re not in some state of agony about w hat’s happening,” she says simply, “it’s just because you’re not allow ing yourself to think about it.”
Mind you, she says she rages a lot less now. Later, when I see her perform a gig, she delivers some typically fierce, rabble-rousing stuff; but then her face lights up as she delivers a joyful love poem. I ts chief refrain is: “Let’s spend the afternoon in bed, with three bottles of wine.” (Oh, all right. I didn’t say she was teetotal.)
The latest thing she’s written is a novel about a girl called Becky, who is an erotic masseuse, “but also works in her uncle’s caff”. It is, she says,the last chapter in a series of works looking at her life so far, what she passingly calls her “London, I Love You, You’re Mental” series. Right now, says Tempest, feels like “the beginning of something else”.