Hawkwind legend Robert Calvert to be commemorated with blue plaque at Arlington House

Robert Calvert and Hawkwind in 1977

By Joe Banks

Margate’s Brutalist tower block Arlington House is to be formally identified as the “birthplace of space rock” with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to commemorate Hawkwind legend Robert Calvert.

Robert was the frontman for space rock band Hawkwind during much of their classic 1970s period.

The plaque will be erected on the side of Arlington House, where Calvert lived with his parents and siblings in the 1960s. Hawkwind’s classic song ‘High Rise’ was inspired by his time there.

The plaque will be officially unveiled this Friday (25th November) at 1.30pm. Anybody is welcome to attend.

Calvert was Hawkwind’s singer, poet and conceptualist from 1971-73 and 1976-79. He co-wrote the band’s million-selling single ‘Silver Machine’ and appeared on classic albums including Space Ritual and Quark, Strangeness And Charm. He was the driving force behind Hawkwind’s transformation into the ultimate science fiction rock band as well as being a hugely charismatic and influential performer.

Organised by Thanet residents Nick Dermott and William Gary, the idea for the plaque was inspired by a similar one for T.S. Eliot affixed next to the Nayland Rock Shelter on Margate seafront.

Nick Dermott said: “Living in Arlington House, Calvert would have been surrounded by the vastness of the sky – for J.M.W. Turner, ‘the best skies in Europe’, which in the late 1960s would have been filled with US Air Force fighter jets based at RAF Manston five miles away. “Robert Calvert, Hawkwind and Arlington House are all underappreciated examples of British culture that need to be celebrated.”

In his youth, Calvert worked at Dreamland, during which time he befriended future Hawkwind members Nik Turner and DikMik.

After leaving Hawkwind in 1979, Calvert returned to live in the area, settling in nearby Ramsgate. It was from this base that he wrote his last two solo albums Freq and Test-Tube. He died from a heart attack in 1988 at the tragically early age of 43.

Photo William Gary

In celebration of the plaque’s unveiling, the Hawklords will play a special one-off show on Friday 25 November at Olby’s Soul Café, Margate, with support from tribute band Motorheadz, plus Superheads. Tickets are available for the show here.

As well as being a singer and performer, Calvert was also a prolific writer, poet and playwright. In spring 2023, a major anthology of Calvert’s work – much of which was unreleased in his lifetime – will be published by Clyvedon Press. More information can be found here.

Robert Calvert facts

Robert Calvert was born in Pretoria, South Africa and moved with his parents to Margate when he was two. He attended school in London and Margate. Having finished school he joined The Air Training Corps, where he became a corporal and played the trumpet for the 438 squadron band.

He then went on to college in Canterbury. Robert began his career in earnest by writing poetry. In 1967 he formed the Street Theatre group, Street Dada Nihilismus.

At the end of the 1960s he moved to London. Robert became acquainted with Dave Brock, Hawkwind’s remaining original member, and was the resident poet, lyricist and frontman of the band, intermittently, from 1972–1979.

Robert co-wrote Hawkwind’s hit single Silver Machine, which reached No. 3 in the UK singles chart.

His creative drive and passion also resulted in a great quantity of music outside of Hawkwind as well as writing poems and plays.

The dad-of-four died aged 43, He was buried in Minster Cemetery. His gravestone is engraved with the line “Love’s not Time’s fool”, from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.

Many members of Robert’s family still live in Thanet.

Hawkwind musician and former Thanet resident Nik Turner has died aged 82