The Independent London Newspaper
26th April 2019

Spandau Ballet star Gary Kemp: Why I’m proud of my old school

    Gary Kemp

    Musician fronts appeal to mark Alice Owen’s 400th anniversary

    Published: 10th June, 2011

    ROCK star Gary Kemp has praised his old Islington school, which inspired the formation of his world-famous band Spandau Ballet.

    Mr Kemp, who grew up in Essex Road, attended Dame Alice Owen’s School in the early 1970s in Finsbury, where he became friends with other future members of the band. His brother Martin, also a band member, went to Islington’s Central Foundation School. 

    Mr Kemp is chairman of Dame Alice Owen’s 400th anniversary app­eal to raise £1million for a new science block.

    The school was established with cash from the Honourable Brewing Company in 1613. It moved to Potters Bar in 1976 but each year still selects 20 Islington pupils, who either have to sit an exam or have a sibling at the school.

    “I’m proud to be an old Owenian,” Mr Kemp said. “I have strong memories of my time at the school. I still remember receiving Beer Money, provided for pupils as a reminder of Dame Alice’s legacy. A tradition which continues today.”

    Dame Alice was married to a brewer and each pupil receives a ceremonial shilling to commemorate the connection.

    Mr Kemp was awarded the FE Cleary prize for music at the school in 1975. “Former relationships eventually came together in 1978 to form Spandau Ballet,” he said.

    The school inspired his lifelong passion for climbing. A travel bursary in 1977 allowed him to climb Mount Toubkal in Morocco with two other students and three teachers.

    Mr Kemp recalled being introduced to the hills by his former teacher, Jon Townsend, who “made us understand that climbing and hill walking weren’t just sporting activities but that they gave you a connection to the earth that you don’t get in a city”.

    As chairman of the appeal, Mr Kemp hopes to give something back to the school. “Dame Alice Owen’s provided an amazing environment which inspired me to foster my talents and it needs our help to continue to support those talented students who will be the scientists of tomorrow,” he said.

    Mr Kemp’s old maths teacher, Bill Hamilton-Hinds, said: “I remember getting Gary through his maths GCE even though his first love was music and drama.”

    The school is planning a concert at the Royal Albert Hall next year, with performances by its orchestra and possibly members of Spandau Ballet, including Gary and Martin Kemp.

    A service of thanksgiving is also planned for St Paul’s Cathedral next year.

    Spandau Ballet split acrimoniously in 1990 but announced their reunion in March 2009, and began a tour in October of that year.


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