MBE for Jongleurs founder
Kempinska's new year honour
The daughter of Polish immigrants, she opened her first club in Battersea, South London, with a £300 overdraft in 1983 after being inspired by a visit to the Edinburgh Fringe.
It originally provided a stage for all manner of bizarre alternative cabaret acts, but soon started to focus on stand-up; helping to launch the careers of the likes of Graham Norton and Jack Dee.
The company evolved into a corporate brand, specialising in entertaining larger parties. By 2000, there were eight Jongleurs venues across the UK, which Kempinska sold to Regent Inns in a deal that valued the company at £30million. She and co-founder John Davy received £8.5million each and retained certain rights to the brand name as well as creative control of over which acts are booked.
There are now 16 clubs, but Regent Inns – which also owns the Walkabout and Old Orleans chains – has encountered financial difficulties. The entire company is now only worth £3.1million, and is trying to sell at least two Jongleurs clubs.
Kempinska, 55, once said: ‘I chose a difficult name because my own name is difficult and once people know it, they don’t forget it.
‘When working people go out on a Friday or Saturday night they don’t want to go to a room at the top of a scruffy pub which is unkempt and uncared for. They want to go to a place where they feel that they are getting an evening out and having a good time.”
‘It is about being the best you can. Do what you want to do, but do it absolutely brilliantly.
Posted: 1 Jan 2009