Two London voices discuss art, food, creativity, and the gentrification of their home city...

Reflection is an important part of the creative process. Whether you’re reflecting on a piece of work, your surroundings, history; without taking some time out to think, constantly stuck in a rat race, we’d struggle to actually move anywhere.

Obonjan, a “Summer holiday destination with a festival twist”, is almost as rehabilitating for the artists performing there, as it is for those who attend as punters.

The 136-acre island, located just 6km off Šibenik on the Adriatic coat, has been uninhabited for the past decade, and has been taken over by the creators of Unknown Festival and advisors from the Eden Project, who have leased it for the next 45 years with plans to make it a low-impact year round haven for creatives.

There’s no VIP, no green room - and to be honest, everything is so beautiful anyway, you’re unlikely to catch anyone complaining. With only around 400 people inhabiting the island at a time, you’re never likely to find any part of the island particularly busy or overrun - until everyone gathers for a performance on an evening.

One Thursday afternoon, after a stormy night that delays our Clash showcase, friends and collaborators, Kate Tempest and Loyle Carner meet with a bunch of fans under the shaded Pavilion. Excitement fills the air, but not in an overbearing, “Can I get a selfie”, kind of way. The crowd - as Tempest mentions several times - feel creative and engaged, wanting to absorb and learn as much as enjoy themselves.

Following very intimate performances from both artists, including a sneak preview of Kate’s new album ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, the pair take their seats to reflect on everything from the gentrification of South London to “the geography of the mind”…

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Kate Tempest:
Obonjan.

Loyle Carner:
With a silent J.

Kate Tempest:
Is that how I say it?

Loyle Carner:
Yeah it is actually.

Kate Tempest:
Fine young man. We're going to have a conversation. If there's anything that you want to ask, go ahead and ask, don't feel shy. If there's not a question mark at the end of it, or if it's just something you want to say to make yourself look smart then, you're not allowed to do that!

Audience member:
Would you say at least 50% of what you sit down and write is true or at least witnessed in a close environment?

Kate Tempest:
I think that's probably true and it's probably the same for all the writing that we do but the minute you finish a piece of writing it doesn't belong to you, you don't write it any more, it belongs to you, the reader, the listener, the audience. So the less you know about whether or not this is me talking about my life or this is me talking about your life, I think the better. Then it can belong to you and it can live outside of the moment in which it was conceived.

Ben what is your best dish or favourite one to cook? You can take that to mean whatever you want. You can take that wherever you want to go. Maybe tell the crowd if it's okay what you were doing last week.

Loyle Carner:
Yeah, basically I’ve got ADHD and I was diagnosed with it when I was 17. I’m 21 now and I set up a cooking school free to local kids of ADHD from between the years of 14 and 16. It was me teaching the classes with a friend of mine called Chris, who runs a catering company. It was a weeks' intensive course with me and a friend teaching from the hours of like 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock and then the following week we had a dinner for the parents. Then a week after that we set up a pop up restaurant like a fundraiser and we raised money to put back into the school. All the kids and me cooked for the public. That's what I've been up to cooking.

The best dish that night was form a kid called Eric who's 15, wicked kid, strong, like heavily, heavily Nigerian influence from his parents and they're very strict. They didn't believe that he had ADHD because he’s never been diagnosed. But he's brilliant, he's mental, he's crazy, he's innovative, he's quick thinking, he's very emotional and he made a Beef Wellington and it was ten out of ten.

Audience member:
When you write do you know where you're going to start or end or do you just let it flow?

Loyle Carner:
I think it's different every time I write. Usually I'll start with the first few things in my head but not write down. I was told never write anything down when you start. I never look at a black page because a blank page has nothing to offer you, so I tend to write in my head until I've got an idea. But ideas, if you're putting a piece together, say it's a poem, it's a lot easier I feel because you can write something, and then write something six months later and those two things can combine and become one whole poem. For me, it's different.

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Kate Tempest:
It depends very much on the form that you're working in. So some things, it's very useful to begin without knowing fully where you're going. For example a writer called E.L. Doctorow, he's one of my favourite writers ever, he talks about how a novel begins in an image or a feeling or a situation, a conversation. Something comes to you realise you're about to go on a journey on which you're going to find out as much about this novel as any reader in the process of working out what it wants to be.

But a story comes into your head fully formed, you know exactly the place, the setting, the people. All you've got to do is get it our and written as soon as you possibly can. I feel like that rang true for me. So you either have the story and when you're a story teller, you work out everything. You work out who these people are, what's going to be happening. The environment in which they live.

But with something more whole like an album or a novel, to an extent a play although that's still kind of story, there are these two train tracks - analogy is not my strong point but I'll give it a go - there's these two tracks along which everything you think you know about what that story's going to to be and everything you're yet to find out are running together. In the moment of finishing an idea you realise that everything you hoped the story would be, it's never going to be that, it's just going to be shit, that's the reality of finishing an idea. An idea is beautiful, perfect, it comes from the 4th dimension.

The finished thing is shit, it's come through your body, your head, your mind and now it lives on a piece of paper which is the second dimension, two dimensions on paper. You've lost two dimensions in the channeling of an idea, you've murdered it twice, that’s difficult. But this is the artistic path, that's what you learn. Actually in the moment in which the idea has life, when it's listened to read, engaged with, acted on stage, it gains another dimension, it becomes three dimensional.

It has a little resurrection. So you're very important in that moment. What I'm trying to say is, I don't know!

Audience member:
I want to know how you feel when you walk down the road where you grew up.

Kate Tempest:
I think to expand this a little bit from just this conversation we can talk about home, like everybody has home. Ben and I are both from South London and all my family have left South London, it's just me left there but I'm still really close to my school friends and people I've known for like 10, 15, 20, 25 years.

There is this feeling that you get by knowing that you know every single possible outcome of what happens if you turn left there. Every single possible outcome of what happens at the end of that street because of the geography of the place, that's all I'm talking about. When you know a place, your feet have walked it so many times there's a comfort to it. I've spent 30 years in South London in the same little bit of it.

Now, for the first time in my life I feel it's time to go. That's how I feel about South London right now. I feel, and it's like it hurts because yeah it's changing a lot and it's very different. Lewisham resembles a shit version of IKEA Manhattan, it's bonkers what they've done. They're bulldozed everything and they've built these ridiculous skyscrapers.

For me, if I was a commuter, why would you want to live in fucking Lewisham if you're not from there? They’re like 40 stories tall these pretend luxury accommodations that are going to fall apart in two minutes. Basically what bothers me about it is that my relationship with the sky in the place that I've lived for 30 years has now changed. When I look up I can just see fucking IKEA Manhattan. It's stopping me from having the same relationship with the sky that I've had all my life.

The thing is like, what are we talking about? We're just on a luxury island that's just been leased for 45 years so we can build some like… that's a sore spot in the room isn't it! It's tough. I fell what you're saying. Ben, I mean, what do you think, how do you feel about this?

Loyle Carner:
Croydon’s actually on the up, apparently, but I don't know if that’s a downward slope because it's on an up: so we get an overground and then Westfields, Boxpark and whatever else comes with that. I've lived in London my whole life. I moved from Brixton up to Croydon and we've been there ever since. All of my friends have lived in South basically until I went to university. Then I had friends who who would come down from North England or deep down in South of England come up, and when everyone moves to London who hasn't been there, they move to the places that you wouldn't necessarily go to.

You spend time in places that you wouldn't have ever been before. That was weird because they kind of had latched onto a different kind of London than I’d latched onto. In my eyes a lot of London I know is gone, not completely gone, but it's very different. For them it's like “Oh it's amazing, there's all these pubs, it's all really fancy, and everything's really expensive, but it's cool because I've got my student loan.” Until your student loan goes and you have no money.

Kate Tempest:
I think it's important to say, just to leave it on a good note is that the positivity of all this is that change is essential and very important and that we will find our way. Communities will live on, it's okay even if we all get moved out to barns or whatever it is, it's okay. I feel like change is very positive. This isn't a positive thing to say at all but the problem with gentrification, if we're going to talk about that is, what it's symptomatic of is greed essentially, there is greed at root in our culture which seized last and people and stuff was something to exploit for the maximum amount of profit at the expense of anything that lives on that land.

In London, the most, the biggest thing we have is culture, you know what I mean? That's what we've done for the past 50, 60 100 years, this is what we've done. My worry is that that will change but actually, that will never change because musicians will just go somewhere else. In fact all the artists I know have done to Croydon anyways so you're next basically that's what happens, artists first.

Loyle Carner: We're up. It's because people are pushing back.

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Audience member:
I would love to hear what comes to mind when I say something like “geography of the mind”?

Loyle Carner:
I got a C in Geography.

Kate Tempest:
I don't think I did any Geography.

Loyle Carner:
Geography's shit. That's what comes to my mind. No offence for anyone on stage with me because I wish I could understand, but I've been shit at geography for forever.

Kate Tempest:
I'll tell you what I learned about the geography of the mind. When I began rapping, I only had one form at my disposal. All I had, all I needed was a rhyme verse; sixteen bar, thirty-two bar, whatever it was. If I had an idea it came out as a rhyme. When I challenged myself to think beyond that, my first thing other than a rhyme that I wrote was a play. It was agony, it was so difficult the whole way through. I felt like I was going to vomit when I watched it being performed for the first time. I felt like I was a hideous mistake that should never have been made, it was awful.

After getting to the end of that play I realised suddenly this new root had opened up in the geography of my mind for my ideas to move down. From that I got into poetry and things. Now, I've written a novel, there's a new album coming. What I think is important to say is that this, all up here, this is an infinite labyrinth and the more you close the doors, the less free your ideas can come, and they come from up here and come through you.

Your job is to facilitate and improve your capacity so that when an idea comes you can facilitate it. That's your job as a human being, in my opinion anyway. If you are ever comfortable with what you are doing, I don't know what you will do, I imagine it's probably quite exciting and probably creative I just get that feeling from you. It you ever feel comfortable in what you're producing, you've lost. You're not alive, that's it, it's stagnant water. William Blake says, "He who desires and acts not is like stagnant water and breeds reptiles of the mind," which is beautiful but it's not what I'm talking about right now!

My point is is that if you are ever comfortable you're not growing and if, unless you are completely out of your depth, your creativity of whatever you are producing, you will never know how strong your stroke it. You don't know how to get yourself out of that deep water until you're in the deep water. This is how you improve the geography of your mind. This is how you give yourself more space to play, it's how you extend the labyrinth and honestly from person to person, have I not been on this journey I would never of thought for a million years that I could write a novel and actually while we're sitting on the stage you and me and I will say Ben I want you to try it and write a narrative.

I want you to think about character. I want you to break out of just the raps and the rhymes, which is beautiful, I live or die for hip-hop and it's a beautiful form but you're a writer first and foremost. It's really important because we give ourselves these brackets. There's enough brackets put on us already, we don't need to bracket our creativity anymore than we do. You asked me about the geography of the mind and what I'll say is, allow yourself to be out of your depth at all times.

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Audience member:
When you're at your lowest and you need your comfort food or your favourite jumper, your favourite meal, whatever it is when you're feeling really weak and low, what is the piece of writing that you go to in that space?

Loyle Carner:
Actually I listen a poem by Langston Hughes called ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’.

Kate Tempest:
It's really interesting that you've listened to that. I've not heard Langston Hughes delivering his poems.

Loyle Carner:
Langston Hughes was one of the first poets who would record his poems. He actually started recording poems over jazz, arguably started hip-hop - he didn’t, but kind of did. He recorded his poem with nothing. If you go on Spotify and you search Langston Hughes you can get all of his poems. I'm heavily dyslexic and I love to read but it takes me fucking ages. So that's why I latched onto him as the first poet that I loved, because I could listen to it as opposed to reading it.

Kate Tempest:
William Blake, ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, I'll go back to when I need it. Don Delillo ‘White Noise’, I mean it's not that comforting, it’s fucking rattling, but sometimes you need that. There’s a writer called, Carson McCullers, from the Deep South, she wrote a book called ‘The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe’ which reminds me of an old love which is really nice.

Audience member:
You're saying that doing your poetry and your writing is something that's quite individual isn't it? But doing something on a play level is probably something a lot more inclusive. If you’re reciting your own writing and it belongs to you then that’s cool, but if you’re making a play then obviously other people are going to bounce ideas off you. Is that difficult?

Kate Tempest:
It's actually a very liberating thing to have a creative community, which is something that we all kind of desperately search for and find in the ways that we can. You find your powers and you're like amazing, you do this too, you're mental like me.

Loyle Carner:
Let’s be mates.

Kate Tempest:
Yeah, let's hang out on a stage in deck chairs!

Loyle Carner:
And gin and tonics!

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Kate Tempest will release new album 'Let Them Eat Chaos' on October 7th.

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