Katie Kermode - the champion memory expert from Timperley
- Credit: Pics; John Cocks
Katie Kermode reveals that even she sometimes forgets where she left her keys.
We all know what it’s like to stand in a supermarket, wondering what on earth we went in for or to suddenly realise, just as we’re leaving the house, that we can’t remember where we left the car keys. However, it should make us all feel a little better to hear that even official memory champions suffer similar problems.
‘Everyday life can be very different to focusing on retaining information for a memory competition. I don’t ever memorise my shopping list and, just like everyone else, I sometimes put my keys down somewhere, without paying too much attention to where that somewhere is,’ explains 40-year-old Timperley-based, Katie Kermode, who is one of the world’s top memory athletes.
She is the UK Memory Champion, is ranked 15th in the world and holds two world records: memorising 318 random words in 15 minutes and 103 names and faces in just five minutes.
‘I memorised the names and faces from photographs but, in an ordinary social situation, people don’t always oblige, as no-one keeps the exact same expression on their face for five minutes while I connect the name to the face,’ laughs Katie whose parents realised she had an extraordinary memory when-as a small child she could recall every prize on The Generation Game’s conveyor belt, including the cuddly toy!
Katie loved memorising all sorts of things from the planets to football cards and, by the time she left school to study computer science at Cambridge University, she had achieved the best exam results in her year, could play the piano and was at ease with learning foreign languages.
‘I’m not a know-all though! I do have a good memory but there are certain things that anyone can do to make their memory stronger. That’s why memory champions like to call themselves memory athletes: the memory can be worked upon. Visualisation helps: for example, imagining the words you need to remember are in a certain place.
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‘For me, it tends to be houses that I’ve lived in over the years. I might ‘put’ some words in different rooms and then, in my imagination, walk through those rooms, recalling the words as I go.’ Katie also recalls cards by using a phonic system and sometimes remembers lists by setting them to music-usually to the theme tune of Neighbours! She entered her first competition ten years ago and had a special reason for doing so.
‘I decided to do one of their tests in my kitchen under competition conditions and found that my results had unofficially beaten the world record. My mother, who was very ill at the time, told me I should have an official attempt but before I could do that, she died. So, I decided to do it for her and, by coincidence the first competition was in Cambridge, my university town,’ says Katie.
Katie is often encouraged to go on television quiz programmes.
‘But if I did, I would first have to rely on my tried and tested technique of imagining how I would feel if I didn’t do very well, as that can be a huge help in coping with any disappointment.
‘It also helps to do the flip side by imagining what success will taste like,’ laughs Katie who will soon be off to Vienna for the next world Memory Championships.
It’s child’s play
Today, Katie is a well-known and highly respected name in the world of memory championships and has travelled all over the globe taking part, winning cash prizes and a haul of trophies and medals.
‘I have made some fantastic friends and I enjoy all aspects of it from memorising dates of world events to recalling card orders. I did have a break while I had my children and yes, I did suffer with “baby brain” laughs Katie, who has found that both her children, particularly nine-year-old Daniel, have inherited her gift.
‘I’m delighted because it really does help to build confidence. In fact, I’ve been asked to give workshops in how to use the memory as a tool for confidence building for everyone from schoolchildren to corporate groups, which is always fun,’ says Katie.