2017: Kae Tempest

The Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2017 was the acclaimed recording artist, poet, playwright and novelist

The Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2017 was the acclaimed recording artist, poet, playwright and novelist Kate Tempest.

Described by the Guardian as ‘one of the brightest British talents around,’ Tempest’s prolific artistic output across multiple disciplines has attracted her considerable acclaim and a unique range of audiences. Having made her live debut as a spoken-word artist at just sixteen, Tempest initially conceived of herself as a rapper, however she is now equally at home as a poet, novelist, musician and playwright - garnering extraordinary success in each field.

Tempest’s appointment as Guest Director followed a number of successful appearances at Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival. After her acclaimed play Wasted sold out Brighton Festival 2012, Tempest performed Brand New Ancients to two full houses in the Corn Exchange as part of Brighton Dome’s spring 2014 programme. In 2015 she headlined an exclusive Brighton Festival event alongside fellow wordsmiths George the Poet and Hollie McNish.

At a political and social moment that feels particularly precarious, Tempest’s wide-ranging Brighton Festival programme paid homage to what Tempest calls the ‘Everyday Epic’ - art that helps us connect to ourselves and others, explores our individual stories and differences, and encourages audiences to take a walk in someone else’s shoes.

Kate Tempest herself featured in a host of performances both large and small: including an exclusive opening gig of music and spoken word, her largest full band performance to date; and a live orchestration of her recent album Let Them Eat Chaos, produced in collaboration with Oscar-nominated artist Mica Levi. All were rapturously received by sell-out audiences – with fans taking to Twitter to proclaim the likes of: “Transcendent doesn't even cover it: Kate you blew my mind. Thank you”.

Reflecting Tempest’s belief that: ‘The arts should be in our communities, not only on elevated platforms or behind red velvet ropes’, two new ventures ensured Brighton Festival 2017 did just that: The Storytelling Army, a dynamic collective of people from all walks of life popped up in unusual locations across the city to tell their ‘Everyday Epic’ stories - in turn humorous, inspiring, thought-provoking, emotional, and rousing; and new initiative Your Place, in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre, brought a diverse line-up of free performances, workshops and activities Festival artists and local residents to the Hangleton and East Brighton communities. A resounding success, 1500 people took part in Your Place across two weekends.

Brighton Festival audiences were also encouraged to join the Pay-It-Forward movement for the first time in another new initiative which offered the chance to donate £5 on top of ticket prices which was match-funded to create a £10 Festival ticket voucher for someone unable to afford the opportunity. The response was phenomenal with over a thousand people choosing to pay tickets forward in the lead up to the Festival.

Kate Tempest says: "I feel very humbled to have been given the opportunity to guest direct Brighton Festival. This year’s theme, Everyday Epic, seemed to encapsulate some of my feelings about how music, literature and poetry can give us back our lives. Singing, playing, dancing, moving, painting life and communicating about that in public spaces - it requires no qualifications, no training to enjoy it. It’s truthful communication between humans about humanity and in these times, it feels more important than ever to try and understand what that humanity is and what it could be.”

See our more from our past guest directors

2020/2021: Lemn Sissay MBE

If you Google, the name 'Lemn Sissay' all the returning hits will be about him. There’s only one person in the world named Lemn Sissay
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2019: Rokia Traoré

With her work rooted in Malian musical tradition, 2019’s Guest Director was one of Africa’s most inventive musicians
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2018: David Shrigley

Best known for his distinctive drawing style and works that make satirical comments on the absurdity of 21st-century society.
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