© 2016 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.Intense, compact, star-forming galaxies are rare in the local Universe but ubiquitous at high redshift. We interpret the 0.1-22 µm spectral energy distributions of a sample of 180 galaxies at 0.05 <z <0.25 selected for extremely high surface densities of inferred star formation in the ultraviolet. By comparison with well-established stellar population synthesis models, we find that our sample comprises young (~60-400 Myr), moderate mass (~6 × 109 M?) star-forming galaxies with little dust extinction (mean stellar continuum extinction Econt(B - V) ~ 0.1) and find star formation rates of a few tens of solar masses per year. We use our inferred masses to determine a mean specific star formation rate for this sample of ~10-9 yr-1, and compare this to the specific star formation rates in distant Lyman-break galaxies (LBGs), and in other low-redshift populations. We conclude that our sample's characteristics overlap significantly with those of the z ~ 5 LBG population, making ours the first local analogue population well tuned to match those high-redshift galaxies. We consider implications for the origin and evolution of early galaxies.