Ex-Goldsmiths stars shine at Mercury Prize ceremony

Katy B and James Blake's albums were both nominated for the Mercury Prize

Goldsmiths alumni Katy B and James Blake performed at the Mercury Prize ceremony on Tuesday evening, which took place at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

Graduates of Goldsmiths’ Popular Music course, Lewisham born James, 21, and Peckham girl Katy, 22, both had their debut albums nominated for the coveted Barclaycard Mercury Prize, which was eventually won by PJ Harvey for her album Let England Shake  – making her the only artist who has ever won the award twice.

James Blake, nominated for his eponymous album, performed his song the Wilhelm’s Scream at the awards. “When I played the song to people at first, they said it was maybe a bit too fuzzy, a bit too distorted. But I think as time went on, people got used to it. It’s kind of the same with all my music, really,” he told the BBC.

Great success had been predicted even before Blake released the album, as he was runner up in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 Poll and came second in the Brits Critics’ Choice Award. The album was described as an “introverted, odd, eccentric record with a strange sort of beauty” by Simon Frith, head of the judges panel for the award, in a recent BBC interview.

Katy B performed Katy On A Mission with a full live band including a horn section, which formed a welcome addition to the tune that rose to the top of the UK Indie chart last year.  The singer became known at Rinse FM, and was nominated for her debut album On A Mission, which was released in April this year. She told Digital Spy: “I’ve been getting loads of goosepimples and I feel very honoured to be on the list with everyone.” When asked who she thought would win, she said:  “I don’t mind, I’m sure the judges have their idea who should win.”

Katy and James attended the BMus Popular Music course at Goldsmiths College at the same time. Simon Deacon, Director of Popular Music Performance at Goldsmiths, told EastLondonLines last month: “Both artists were two steps ahead of most of their counterparts when they started the course in 2007. Blake was already relatively well known as a dubstep producer, while Katy B had established herself as an underground vocalist at the (then) pirate radio station Rinse FM.”

It is not the first time one of Goldsmith’s Popular Music graduates has been nominated for a Mercury Prize. In 2008, the Portico Quartet starring Goldsmith alumnus Milo Fitzpatrick was nominated as the Jazz contender and in 2009, the band The Invisible received a nomination while three of their members were tutoring at the New Cross campus.

The BMus Popular Music course had its first intake of students in 2004, and continues to produce around 30 graduates a year. The course is extremely popular and attracts a varied group of students from all ages and backgrounds.

Words: Koos Couvee


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