Brighton will get to see plenty of Kate Tempest next May. She has been named Guest Artistic Director for next year’s Brighton Festival. A hands-on job, it will enable her to curate artists and acts she believes in, and hopefully we’ll get to see her perform too. She’ll also be, by some distance, the youngest Guest Artistic Director the Brighton Festival has ever seen. Only 30, Tempest’s list of achievements are already extraordinary; Mercury Prize nominee for her debut album Everybody Down, Ted Hughes award winner for Brand New Ancients, shortlisted for the 2016 Costa poetry award, writer of several plays including Wasted, Glasshouse and Hopelessly; and acclaimed novelist with the multi-generational tale of drugs, desire and belonging, The Bricks That Built The Houses.
But it is her music that she is best known for. She has a long history of performing at open mics, spoken word events and with bands, all of which prepared her for Everybody Down, her first official album release. It was a brilliantly conceived collection of narrative tracks that married her traditional poetry craft, her skilful and resonating spoken metre, with the kinetic agitation of hip-hop and urban electro beats courtesy of Dan Carey. With that album she spoke from the heart and with a great deal of courage about everyday tales of poverty, class, consumerism and even simple everyday living – at times drawing on mythology and holistic philosophy to tie the individual narratives into a cohesive whole. Socio-political issues were being subtly woven into the fabric of her characters’ lives. She was a much needed socio-political voice in a sea of trite and trivial pop and rock. But she was also sharp and funny with it.
A couple of months ago, she released her second album, Let Them Eat Chaos, also made with Dan Carey. A continuation of Everybody Down, Tempest delved deeper into her thoughts on the universe and everything: each individual’s place within it and the interconnectivity between them and all things. It’s a collection of songs centred around an apocalyptic storm, that ultimately pulls together the lives of seven seemingly unconnected individuals, living on the same anonymous street in London. It details their lives at 4.18am, perhaps the deepest part of the night, a time when humans are perhaps least physically connected.