Former homeless Paris busker wins prestigious Mercury Prize and dedicates it to terror victims
Published 21/11/2015 | 06:49
Musician Benjamin Clementine has won the prestigious Mercury Prize for his album At Least For Now, dedicating his win to the the still-reeling city of Paris, where he was once a homeless busker.
After being named as the 2015 winner, Clementine said he was lost for words, but it wasn't long before his mind turned to the City of Lights.
He was raised in north London, but relocated to Paris with £60 to his name and was initially homeless as he busked to survive.
The now-acclaimed artist recalled how he started singing because he "felt like nobody cared" in a city where he could not speak the language.
He said: "I realised that we're all equal - it's all about helping each other."
He added: "I grew up as a man because I was by myself. Paris is very dear to me and I'll never forget Paris."
His strong connection led him to dedicate his award to the city, which is still reeling from the deaths of 129 people in simultaneous terror attacks one week ago, in a brief but emotional speech during the presentation.
Afterwards, he said news of the attacks left him devastated.
He said: "I was very sad. Heartbroken.
"I went there on Saturday. I went there and sent my condolences by going to the Bataclan (concert hall) and mourned for a little bit, then I felt free - like a weight had been pulled off my shoulders."
The award allows up-and-coming artists greater exposure, even if they are merely nominated, and is highly regarded because it is not judged on commercial success.
The judging panel called Clementine's debut album "dramatic, intimate and pulsatingly original" and hailed him as "a remarkable new pianist and singer".
Clementine said he would to use some of the £20,000 prize money to help his tour, which continues on Saturday in Portugal.
But he pledged to spend a portion on helping homeless people.
He also said he wanted to continue spending his time between London and Paris, adding: "One is my home, one is dear to my heart."
Clementine won the accolade over fellow nominees Florence + The Machine, Aphex Twin, Gaz Coombes, C Duncan, Eska, Ghost Poet, Jamie xx, Roisin Murphy, Slaves, Soak and Wolf Alice.