IT’S A hugely grateful Kate Tempest who strides, warm smile beaming, on to the stage at a Dome packed with devotees. Grateful we have chosen to embrace this year’s Brighton Festival, grateful we are sharing this moment with her as guest director.

“Whatever you have been doing today that has brought you here, your day is about to get better,” the poet, rapper and musician proclaims to cheers. The almost evangelical whoops of agreement from an audience made up of all ages, such is her draw, continue as she riffs on art as a “cultivator of empathy”, and the urgent need at this time to construct our own narratives.

These are powerful, prescient messages conveyed by a compelling performer, whose passionate “art for all” ethos runs through the festival. This early evening special is a taster of festival treats to come and Tempest has invited along poets she admires. Kat Francois offers a poignant observation on modern life and Aussie Omar brings crowdpleasing humour and a sweet love poem.

The highlight though, of course, comes from Tempest. There is a tangible thrill as she embarks on her stunning state-of-the-nation epic Europe is Lost from her acclaimed Let Them Eat Chaos album. With no accompanying music, this is electrifying in its simplicity, with Tempest trembling as she delivers her scathing, political polemic.

She puts herself – and us through the emotional wringer – so it is a tad disconcerting when we are then required to bop to post-punk jazz funk band Melt Yourself Down who burst on at the end. They are infectiously energetic but even their double saxophones are no match this evening for the power of the spoken word.

The gratitude, Kate, is all ours.

Susan Gilson