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Kae Tempest: what I have learned from 20 years on the mic


The poet and musician reflects on the alchemy between artist and audience – and how storytelling unites a room

James Joyce told me once: “In the particular is contained the universal.” I appreciated the advice. It taught me that the closer attention I pay to my “particular”, the better chance I have of reaching you in yours.

I’ve been getting on the mic for 20 years now, desperate for every opportunity to speak and be heard. Along the way, I’ve walked into a lot of rooms and thought to myself, Man, I don’t know how it’s going to happen tonight. I’ve felt myself judged. Felt myself the wrong person for the occasion. I’ve looked out at crowds and judged them. Been faced with people who I know are not “my people”, and thought, There’s no way you and I are going to get there together. And time and time again I’ve been proved wrong.

The writer’s intentions for their own work are as misguided as a parent’s intentions for the life of their child

Related: Biggest books of autumn 2020: what to read in a very busy year

On Connection by Kae Tempest is published by Faber & Faber.

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