Martin Kemp

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Martin Kemp
Kemp performing in October 2009
Martin John Kemp

(1961-10-10) 10 October 1961 (age 59)
Highbury, England
EducationCentral Foundation Boys' School
  • Actor
  • musician
  • director
Years active1972–present
TelevisionEastEnders (1998–2002)
(m. 1988)
Children2; including Roman Kemp
RelativesGary Kemp (brother)
Musical career
InstrumentsVocals, bass guitar, synthesizer
Years active1979–present
Associated actsSpandau Ballet

Martin John Kemp (born 10 October 1961) is an English actor, musician and director, known as the bassist in the new wave band Spandau Ballet and for his role as Steve Owen in EastEnders.

He is the younger brother of Gary Kemp, who is also a member of Spandau Ballet and an actor. In 2012, Kemp finished third in the tenth series of Celebrity Big Brother, and in 2017 he appeared as a judge on the BBC series Let It Shine.

Early life[edit]

Kemp was born to parents Frank and Eileen Kemp at their house in Islington, north London,[1] and attended Rotherfield Junior School. From the age of 7 he attended the Anna Scher Theatre drama club[2] with his brother Gary, and appeared in many TV shows, including Jackanory, The Tomorrow People and Dixon of Dock Green.[3] In his last year with Anna Scher, he won a role in The Glittering Prizes, appearing alongside Tom Conti and Nigel Havers.[4]

Kemp grew up in north London and attended Central Foundation Boys' School, Islington. Along with pictures of other famous ex-pupils, a large photo of him adorns a wall of fame at the school. After leaving school at 16, he began an apprenticeship in a print factory [5] but soon became disenchanted.[5].

Spandau Ballet[edit]

Kemp's life changed when Steve Dagger, the manager of his brother Gary's band the Gentry, suggested Gary should replace the band's bass-player.[6] Kemp learned to play bass in three months and performed for the first time with the Gentry at a college party.[6] Eventually the band was renamed Spandau Ballet and Kemp left his printing job to concentrate on the band full-time.[7]

Spandau Ballet went on to have a great deal of success in the New Romantic Era, with four of their albums reaching the UK album chart top ten. True also gave the band their first UK number-one album and, with the album's title track, single. Kemp also performed with the band on the popular 1984 famine-relief-project song "Do They Know It's Christmas?", written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. Because of a dispute over royalties, the band split up in the early 1990s.[8][9]

Spandau Ballet announced they had reformed at a press conference on HMS Belfast on 25 March 2009.[10] The band also announced a world tour, beginning with dates in the UK and Ireland in October 2009.

Later career[edit]

Kemp and his brother Gary returned to acting in 1990, both appearing in the British film The Krays, in which they played the notorious gangster twins Ronald and Reginald Kray. Their performances received a great deal of critical acclaim.[11][12][13] After The Krays, Martin Kemp moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s and made appearances in television series such as The Outer Limits and Highlander: The Series. He also appeared in several Hollywood films, including Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992) and Embrace of the Vampire (1994).

In 1995 Kemp moved back to the United Kingdom and took a break from acting for a short while, recovering from removal of two benign brain tumours.[14] He resumed his acting career in 1998 when he made a guest appearance in the ITV police drama series The Bill. He went on to become popular for his role as villain Steve Owen in the BBC's top soap opera, EastEnders, from December 1998. His character was involved in some of the soap's highest-rated storylines, such as the Saskia Duncan murder and "Who Shot Phil?". By the time he left the series in 2002, he was one of the best-known faces on British television. Kemp won three TV Quick Awards for Best Soap Actor (2000, 2001, 2002),[15][16][17] a National Television Award for Most Popular Actor (2000)[18] and five British Soap Awards (Villain of the Year in 2000, Best Actor in 2001 and 2002, and Sexiest Male in 2001 and 2002) for his work on EastEnders.[19][20]

Kemp signed a contract with ITV in 2002 and starred in several television dramas, including The Brides in the Bath, in which he played real-life murderer George Smith, and Can't Buy Me Love opposite fellow EastEnders star Michelle Collins, which was based on a true story about a man who conned his wife and friends into believing he had won the lottery. He also starred in the short-lived crime drama series Family in 2003. From 2004 to 2007, he was the face of furniture chain ScS.[21] He starred in a low-budget British film titled Back in Business which had a limited release in a few cinemas in February 2007 and one month later was released on DVD. He founded his own production company and in March 2008 directed a low-budget 20-minute short film entitled Karma Magnet,[22] which starred his brother Gary and featured Martin's wife and son, Shirlie and Roman. This was released only online.

Kemp appeared on a celebrity special of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in January 2008 with his brother Gary to raise awareness of and funds for the Encephalitis Society. Along with his son, Kemp also featured in one edition of a factual television series for Five, Dangerous Adventures For Boys, based on the best-selling book written by Conn and Hal Iggulden, The Dangerous Book for Boys. In 2008, he appeared on the Discovery Channel television programme Chop Shop where the cast built him a gangster car. He hosted TV's 50 Hardest Men for Sky1 in July 2008 and guest-starred as Mr. Burley in BBC drama series Waterloo Road. The year 2011 saw him starring as "Dr. Lawrence" in Jack Falls. In November 2011 Kemp appeared as a contestant on the second series of ITV's 71 Degrees North but quit after three days. Kemp's first feature film as director, Stalker, was released in 2011.[23]

Kemp was announced as the thirteenth celebrity to participate in the summer series of Celebrity Big Brother 2012. Kemp appeared in the final episode and was placed third on 7 September 2012.[24]

From February to April 2016, Kemp appeared as The Childcatcher in the UK and Ireland tour of the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, alongside Jason Manford, Phil Jupitus and Michelle Collins.[25]

Kemp hosted the first series of "Martin Kemp's Murder Files", aired from November 2016, on the UK TV channel Quest. The show provided detailed accounts of crimes and a step-by-step forensic analysis as to how the evil killers were eventually identified. Murderers featured on the show included the Yorkshire Ripper and the Green River Killer.

In December 2017 he appeared as Captain Hook in Peter Pan - The World's Biggest Pantomime at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham and the SSE Arena in Wembley alongside Bradley Walsh as Smee.[26]

In June 2020, Kemp, with his son Roman premiered as hosts of the new Sunday breakfast programme for ITV, Martin & Roman's Sunday Best!.

Personal life[edit]

Kemp has been married to Shirlie Holliman since 1988.[27] Holliman is a former backing singer of the group Wham![28] and one half of the 1980s pop duo, Pepsi & Shirlie.[29] The couple have a daughter, Harley Moon[30] (born 1989) [30] and a son, Roman[31] (born 1993).

He is a patron of British/Irish charity the Encephalitis Society.[32] At the time he became a patron, he confirmed that he had controlled epilepsy since the 1990s, as a result of two brain tumours.[32] Following surgery to remove the tumours, Kemp had a protective metal plate implanted over his brain under the scalp.[33] The plate is unnoticeable but not undetectable; during an appearance on the Frank Skinner Show in 2002, Kemp jokingly remarked he could never slip quietly through metal-detectors at airports, as the plate would set the alarm off.

On 20 January 2006, Kemp opened a new CT scanning suite at Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, West Midlands.[34]

Kemp is a lifelong Arsenal fan, having been born and raised in the Highbury area.

Hair transplant[edit]

In 2019 Kemp won the category Most Unnatural Hairline at the GQ Awards. This award is in recognition of vain celebrity cosmetic procedures. In 2020 it was won by Björn Ulvaeus of Abba. On collecting his award, Kemp said: "This award means so much to me, as one of the vainest people in celebrity culture. I hope Roman has it done in a few years, when his career is flagging. I want him to have the best hair on radio."[citation needed]



  • Skin Deep (2004) .... Ian Thorpe
  • Aspen Extreme (1993) .... Franz Hauser
  • Ultimate Desire (1993) .... Gordon Lewis
  • Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992) .... Baron Von Frankenstein
  • Growing Rich (1992) .... Driver
  • The Girl Who Came Late (1991) .... Digby Olsen
  • Daydream Believer (1991) ...
  • The Krays (1990) .... Reggie Kray
  • The Glittering Prizes
  • A Country Life (1976)[3] .... Graham Black



  • Kemp, M. (2000). True: The Autobiography of Martin Kemp. Orion. ISBN 0-7528-3264-6.


  1. ^ Kemp, Martin. True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 12.
  2. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 18.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 20.
  4. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 21.
  5. ^ a b True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 31.
  6. ^ a b True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 39.
  7. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 46.
  8. ^ "Spandau Ballet in court over royalties". BBC News. 27 January 1999. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  9. ^ "Spandau court bid fails". BBC News. 30 April 1999. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  10. ^ "Spandau Reform for a World Tour". BBC News. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
  11. ^ "The Krays". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  12. ^ "The Krays film review". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  13. ^ "The Krays". Time Out London. Archived from the original on 23 July 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  14. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 3.
  15. ^ Julia Day (26 July 2001). "Martin Kemp quits EastEnders". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  16. ^ "Backstage at the Quick Awards". 10 September 2002. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  17. ^ "". Archived from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  18. ^ "National Television Awards: The winners". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  19. ^ "EastEnders sweeps soap awards". 19 May 2002. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  20. ^ "Eastenders cleans up soap awards". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  21. ^ "IMDB Artist Work". IMDB. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  22. ^ "Karma Magnet". Dread Central. 18 March 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  23. ^ Helen Earnshaw (31 January 2012). "Martin Kemp Talks Stalker". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  24. ^ Wheeler, Rachael (7 September 2012). "Martin Kemp comes third in the CBB final, just as we realised we quite fancy him after all". Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  25. ^ "Martin Kemp revels in his next villainous role as The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". Daily Echo. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  26. ^ Laws, Roz (10 April 2017). "World's biggest panto is coming back to Brum with Bradley Walsh". birminghammail. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  27. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 141.
  28. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 79.
  29. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 123.
  30. ^ a b True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 172.
  31. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 194.
  32. ^ a b "The Encephalitis Society Newsletter" (PDF). Autumn 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 31 December 2008.
  33. ^ True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp. p. 216.
  34. ^ "Spandau star is just the tonic". Retrieved 21 September 2014.

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