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Where are they now? Forgotten Mercury winners of times gone by

Speech Debelle anyone?

Where are they now? Forgotten Mercury winners of times gone by
15 September 2016

This week sees this year's winner of the Mercury Prize announced, with the 12 nominees all hoping to claim victory. While many will imagine that taking home the award will automatically lead to fame, riches and a long-lasting career for him, not all of the winners have seen things work out that way.

We take a look at some winners for whom the prize win turned out to be very much the peak of their public profile.

(Images: Getty)

M People

Year: 1994

Album:  Elegant Slumming

What happened?

The second album by DJ Mike Pickering and Heather Small got everybody excited about soulful vocals again, storming straight into the top 10 on release and peaking at number 2. Two top ten singles followed and the band went on to win the Mercury Music Prize and even bagged the soundtrack to now long forgotten BBC 2 show, The Living Soap.

Where are they now?

The band released a follow-up album that saw them become the soundtrack of a car advert. And lots of other adverts,  ensuring that they would join the likes of Gabrielle as the driving soundtrack of mums and substitute teachers. They haven't released an album in 17 years although they did have a reunion tour in 2013. Pickering, quite tellingly, decided not to be involved. Heather Small continued to release music for a short while and often performs live at odd events like the Sydney Mardi Gras. She also did a weird cameo in the final episode of Miranda. Well, if you're a fan, why not?

Roni Size /Reprazent

Year: 1997

Album:New Forms

What happened?

The first true outsiders to win the award, it was a surprise when Roni Size and his collective Reprazent scooped the Mercury: New Forms duly went on to become a platinum record and to reach a mainstream audience.

Where are they now?

The follow-up In The Mode enlisted the talents of Zach de la Rocha (Rage Against The Machine) and Method Man (Wu Tang Clan) but, while critically-acclaimed, failed to replicate the sales of New Forms - although clearly the record did not strive for mainstream success. Further underground albums and occasional performances have followed, including a 2008 resurrection and reissue of New Forms, but their moment in the sun was clearly back in 1997. Roni's comeback album Take Kontrol, emerged to little fanfare in 2014.

Talvin Singh

Year: 1999


What happened?

Two years on from Roni Size/Reprazent's triumph, Asian electronic pioneer Talvin Singh was awarded the Mercury for his acclaimed album OK in a year with several relatively obscure nominations. Collaborations with Madonna and Massive Attack followed, but his second solo album Ha was less well-received, peaking at 57 in the UK, with just one more record - 2008's Sweet Box following.

Where are they now?

Still playing the occasional gig, continuing to promote Asian music and probably living a normal life. 2014 was a big year though - he received an OBE in the birthday honours, and a plaque in his hometown of Leyton was put up near the tube station.

Ms Dynamite

Year: 2002

Album:A Little Deeper

What Happened?

Aged just 21, Niomi Arleen MacLean-Daley, aka Ms Dynamite, was at the top of her game, taking the Mercury and two Brit Awards for her debut release A Little Deeper. However, following time off to look after her son, her return with Judgement Days in 2005 was less-than-successful, peaking at 43 in the UK. Further time off followed.

Where Are They Now?'

A third album, Democracy, has been rumoured since 2009 but not materialised, as motherhood has taken priority again. She has made several guest appearances on tracks by respected and upcoming artists, including Katy B's hit Lights On in 2010 and DJ Fresh's Dibby Dibby Sound earlier this year, as well as finishing 4th on Hells Kitchen in 2009. Most recent single Cloud 9 (released in 2013) only made it to No. 62 on the charts, so another gold disc is probably a way off yet.


Year: 2007

Album:Myths of the Near Future

What Happened?

After riding a mountain of hype, some chaotic live performances and their adoption as the poster boys for 'Nu-Rave', Klaxons took the Mercury in 2007, beating Amy Winehouse's Back To Black and Arctic Monkeys' Favourite Worst Nightmare despite an album that was hugely patchy. After lengthy touring, some legendary tales began to emerge of the band's efforts to record a follow-up, including recording in France and hiding when their A&R man came to listen to their (non-existent) progress, and their label, Polydor, refusing to release the album they originally submitted. Surfing The Void finally emerged in 2010 and, while debuting at No. 10, quickly cascaded down the charts, with neither of its singles bothering the Top 40. However, the album did boast tremendous artwork of a cat in an astronaut outfit.

Where Are They Now?

Third album, Love Frequency, came out in 2014 and was a partial return to form - however, the general public remained largely unbothered. James Righton, meanwhile, has married superstar actress Keira Knightey, so he's probably not overly concerned. The band announced that their shows at the end of 2014 and the start of 2015 would be their 'last headline tour' although they have yet to confirm whether they've actually split up or whether they simply want to be the support act from now on and get home and into bed before midnight when they play gigs.

Speech Debelle

Year: 2009

Album:Speech Therapy

What Happened?

A shock winner, beating Florence & The Machine, Bat For Lashes and Friendly Fires despite having sold just 3,000 copies, but the expected post-Mercury sales surge failed to materialise: as of 2012, Speech Therapy had still only sold 15,000 copies (the winners either side sold 300,000+). She blamed her label, Big Dada, for failing to market and promote the record adequately, but still returned to it for second album Freedom of Speech in 2011.

Where Are They Now?

Still musically active and an important voice in social and political issues; she hosted a BBC documentary The Hidden Homeless in 2012, is patron of the program 'HOPE Not Hate' and has been vocal in many aspects of London politics.

Arctic Monkeys

Year: 2006

Album: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

What happened:

At the time they were probably the most exciting buzzband of the decade. Their debut album had an entire nation frothing at the gills in anticipation of its release and when it finally did drop it didn't disappoint. LIttered with now-classic festival sing-a-longs like I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor, Mardy Bum and When The Sun Goes Down. One of the biggest indie albums of the noughties, big things were expected of these Sheffield lads.

Where are they now:

Christ knows? We're not sure anybody ever heard from them again. Which is a shame because they were quite good.