Kat Francois is not one to stand still. In 2004, she was the first performance poet to win the BBC3 TV Poetry Slam Competition; a year later, she become the World Poetry Slam Champion. She has toured nationally with Spoken Word All Stars and devised her own production Seven Times Me which debuted at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, where she has compered and performed for 7 years at their monthly Word4Word event. She has also released a book of her own work Rhyme and Reason and a CD, Blessed By Words.
She returns next week to the Theatre Royal with her new show, KAT'S GOT YOUR TONGUE.
Introduce yourself in one sentence. What would somebody not guess about you having met you?
I’m Kat Francois, a poet, comedian, playwright and an actress, and the thing people might not guess about me is that I have a dog mess phobia, yes you heard right, anytime I see dog mess in the street, I either freeze or hyperventilate. In London, that can be a bit of problem as there is lots of it everywhere. I’m trying to get some help with it, but so far I’ve had no joy.
Describe your sound to us
Smooth, rhythmic, poetic; I’m a poet who likes to sing and put music to my words, I’m passionate and not afraid to try something new.
Who are your influences?
For poetry, I would say, Maya Angelou, that poem STILL I RISE, is one of my favourite ever. Comedy? It has to be Richard Pryor. Singing well, a sober Whitney Houston, but for lyrics and influence it has to be Nina Simone.
What are you up to at the moment, music-wise?
Well I am more of a poet who uses music and sings a bit, than a singer who uses poetry. I am lucky enough to have someone who enjoys making music for me to use, so we are constantly working on new pieces, I have also decided that it is time to learn a musical instrument and I am learning how to play the guitar and annoying my neighbours with my new Djemba drum. Organising two live music and poetry events a month, I have ample opportunity to experiment and try new things and receive instant audience feedback.
Intimates is a night I run at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, the first Friday of each month. I host, and organise some great acts, including, poets and singers, who share their work with the audience then take part in Q&A afterwards, we also play words games, it’s a great evening’s entertainment, and it’s a place where I try out my new work.
If you wrote a song about London what would it be called and what kind of song would it be?
It would be called THE REAL LONDON, and it would be a song which exposed the good and the bad. The bad: crowded tubes, buses, dog poo littering the streets, rude people, and the best bits: Notting Hill Carnival, the London Marathon and the kindness of strangers.
Where do you go to in London for inspiration?
Parks in London. I love running and I have run in some beautiful places. Richmond Park, Battersea Park, Regents Park, Victoria Park, I find running out in the open, is a very personal and peaceful moment, where I can recite some work, make new poems or songs, or just have some time to myself.
Recommend one album to our readers you don’t think they will have discovered.
Ayo Nigerian-German artist, whose first album is called JOYFUL. I loved it.
What’s your favourite…
…venue to play in London?
The Jazz café, everyone should perform there, just to stand on a stage which many great performers have stood on. I have been lucky enough to perform there and it was a wonderful experience.
…venue to go to in London?
Of course I have to say my venue where I host <a href="http://www.stratfordeast.com/your_visit/restaurant_and_bar.shtml">my live poetry and music night at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, every third Sunday of the month, we put on great poets, great live musicians, comedy and best of all it’s for free.
The great thing about the bar is there is a great restaurant, and every night they have some kind of entertainment; comedy, poetry, or live music and best of all it’s free! I don’t know about you, but times are hard, so anything that’s free is always a bonus. I live in this place! If I’m not there hosting my show, I’m watching a show, hooking up with friends, eating or just chilling in the bar. I guess I need to get a life!
I know the purist are going to hate me for this, but I do all my music shopping online, what can I say? It doesn’t make sense to be traipsing around the shops, when I can sit in the comfort of my own home and source and order whatever I want without moving.
The Lord answered my prayers, when he opened a Caribbean eatery in the West end, I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but they weren’t – Savannah Jerk - it’s smack bang in the middle of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. My only tip would be don’t visit toooo late, as the food is so good they can run out of the most popular dishes by late evening.
Shepherds Bush Market, where I get all my Caribbean goods from. I love it as well, as it was somewhere I always went to as a kid with my mum. Nothing better than jumping on a bus getting to the market, bumping into relatives, and being in the middle of the hustle and the bustle of a Caribbean community and being given a handful of sweets by uncle George who had a stall which was always the highlight of the visit.
…place to people-watch?
Airports, tubes, trains buses are all great places to people watch, I’m a terrible people watcher, because I’m very nosey I always like to know what’s going on.
…place to chill-out?
Has to be outdoors, somewhere near water. I went for a great boat ride on the Thames recently from Westminster to Greenwich, jumped out at Greenwich had some lunch then headed back to Westminster. I also love Hyde Park and the fact you can go for a boat ride on the Serpentine, it’s a great place to chill and hang out in the summer especially or just find a spot on my own and write and there’s never any dog mess for me to worry about!
…place to get lashed?
I’m not much of a drinker, so can’t really recommend any great spots, but if I could, I’d recommend that you have a ice-cream cocktail made by a good friend of mine, she makes some mean drinks and after one particularly raucous session, due to the lightweight drinker that I am, I was in no state to drive home. Usually, I would put my Vespa into her back garden but didn’t that night due to my sorry condition, so I left it on the street outside her house. The next morning, it had been stolen - all that was left was the chain and cover, discarded heartlessly in the middle of the road. He was black and he was called Zippy. I still miss him dearly.
…place for a post-gig kebab?
I’m more of a bagel girl myself, there are two bagel places I know well, a bagel shop on the Walworth road, and another one just off the Shepherds Bush roundabout, many a late night after a performance has been spent in one of those shops refuelling.
…view in London?
The London Eye on a clear day or Trellick Towers, a famous tower block in Ladbroke Grove, West London. I once went to a house party on the tenth floor, come night time, they had the most amazing views across London.
…form of public transport?
My Vespa, a lovely eclectic blue one called Blaze ( yes, I got another one). She’s quick nippy, no parking fees, no congestion charge, and I feel very cool and sexy walking around with my helmet. The only time riding a scooter is hard work is when it’s so cold your hands can’t feel the handle bars, other than that I love it, come rain or shine, I’ll be out there on the streets in London, zipping around.
Finally, where can we hear / see you next?
I have a big comedy show coming up called KAT’S GOT YOUR TONGUE, on the main stage of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. It’s a full length comedy show, with characters and lots of new material, it runs over two nights, 10th and 11th of July - yes they’ve finally let me out of the bar and into the main stage! I can’t wait, it’s a great chance to flex my comedic muscles, and after 7 years of doing comedy in the bar whilst hosting my show WORD4WORD, I am ready to take on the comedy world.
Her next show is at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East on July 10 and 11. Tickets are £10/£12 and available here.