PJ Harvey On Winning The Mercury Prize – ‘I Feel Surprised And Astonished’

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Below is PJ Harvey’s full speech from the Mercury Prize’s press room last night

I’m honoured to have won the prize, especially for this album, which I put so much into and knew that I had achieved what I set out to do with it. You can only hope then that it will appeal to a wider audience and it’s wonderful to have the recognition that it has.


10 years ago [when Harvey gave her acceptance speech in a Washington DC hotel in the wake of the 9/11 Pentagon attack] feels like such a surreal experience, I’m sure for everybody, but my only memory of that day really is being in the hotel room and watching the television and seeing the Pentagon burning and I felt so separate from the prize that was being given here at that time, and I’m sure it must have felt very odd for the people that were here. So to have the chance again to be here and actually receive an award means a great deal to me.


I think there is a connection between what happened 10 years ago and the content of this album, in a certain way. Obviously this record that I’ve won with is largely about the wars that we’re involved in, contemporary wars, but also, I wanted in a way for it to be timeless, because we’ve always been involved in wars. But I think that the greater urgency that I felt to write an album about this now is because of the result of what has happened in the last ten years.

I feel surprised and astonished that I’ve won twice and I do feel proud, it’s amazing, I can’t quite take it in but at the same time I feel that making music and words is very important to me and I’ve always tried to make it the best it could possibly be and I hope to continue doing that. I hope to be back here again in another 10 years’ time with another record because it’s very important to me to keep making word that is of relevance, not just to myself but to other people.

I’m a writer that works all the time, I work every day and so already my work’s begun to develop into what will be the next project. I’d like to go even further into what I’ve begun with this record. I was writing in a very different way from the way I’ve written before, working largely on the words for a long time in advance and trying to get them to work in a strong way themselves to begin with, before even thinking of music and that actually served me very well I think with this record – I ended up with a stronger body of work for it. So I’m already writing and moving towards wherever I’ll be heading next.

I actually hadn’t heard Everything Everything before tonight and after seeing their performance I really thought I must go and get that record. I’ve always liked Adele and her voice. Certainly I’m going to go out and buy some records now, because some of them I hadn’t heard before.

I haven’t any plans for the prize money yet, I didn’t want to start my mind racing if nothing were to happen, so I’ll give it some careful thought. I’ll need to think about that for the next few days.

It’s quite overwhelming really, I can’t quite take it in. It makes me really happy and it makes me want to continue to go about my work as I’ve always done, which is taking great care and seriousness over it and it’s just encouraged me to keep doing that.