Artist News Awards

Benjamin Clementine wins 2015 Mercury Prize

By | Published on Monday 23 November 2015

Benjamin Clementine

The Mercury Prize! The Mercury Prize! Did you see it? Did you love it? With its new snappy format that doesn’t have time for a big sit down meal. Or even performances by all of the nominated artists. It’s the future! Until the government forces the BBC to stop showing anything except documentaries about power stations.

So, yeah, various VIPs took their seats in the BBC Radio Theatre on Friday night for an hour long BBC Four show building up to the big winner reveal. A show that seemed suspiciously short, given that it took three hours to announce the shortlist over on 6 Music in October.

Slaves, Róisín Murphy, Eska and Benjamin Clementine all performed live in the room. Wolf Alice’s drummer Joel Amey performed with Slaves, which we might as well count as them getting on stage too. Each nominee got a little video talking them up, and there were interviews with judges in the audience enthusing about the various artists on the shortlist.

But there can be only one winner – that’s, like, a rule, or something – and that winner was Benjamin Clementine. Which meant he actually got to perform live twice. Not a very efficient use of musicians, really, that. People who had already played should have been automatically withdrawn from the competition.

Except that would mean that a very deserving winner – yeah, a lot of people took our critique of the shortlist alarmingly seriously – wouldn’t have been given the prize, and wouldn’t have given one of the best Mercury acceptance speeches in the award’s history.

Seeming genuinely surprised to have been called up on stage, Clementine said: “I’d like to thank… music … I can’t believe I’ve actually won this, I really can’t … I never thought I would say this, but I would like to say that if there is anyone watching – every child, any child, every youngster, every student – the world is your oyster, and just go out there and get whatever you wanna get”.

Then, thanking the other nominated artists, he called them all up on stage – turning to host Lauren Laverne first to ask, “Is that OK?” and a few moments later, “Am I taking too long?”

With his fellow nominees on stage, he concluded, “Before I finish, I know that it’s about music but I dedicate [this award] to [the victims of] what happened about four, five days ago in Paris…” Choking up at this point and unable to speak further, a silence hung in the air before the audience broke into applause.

Clementine has strong links to Paris, having begun his career sleeping rough and busking on the Paris Metro, being discovered after a number of years living in the city and signing a major label deal in 2012. His Mercury-winning album, ‘At Least For Now’, was then recorded in London in 2014 and released in March this year.

He said in a press conference following the ceremony that he had visited the Bataclan theatre, where 89 people were killed, the day after the attacks.

Of the £20,000 prize money that comes with the Mercury trophy, he said he would spend it on pianos, funding a tour, and donate some to homeless charities.

Watch the full awards show here.