Page updated 15th March 2015
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Gene Kent was born in Wiggington, Staffordshire, and grew up near Tamworth in the Midlands. Her father was an electrician, in e time before the National Grid, and he had to go around the local village turning on the street lights at dusk. The popular children's author went to Exeter University before teaching and living in Exeter. Her home for many yars was in Hoopern Street.
Her first novel 'The Prime of Tamworth Pig' was published in 1972. Her Cricklepit School stories have won the Carnegie Medal and the Children's Rights Award. She has also won the Whitbread Award in 1985 and has written for both TV and radio. She received an Honorary MA from Exeter University in 1984.
Gene Kemp, was a teacher and later a governor at St Sidwell's School for a total of 16 years from the 1960s–her Cricklepit books are heavily based on St Sidwell's. The most successful, the Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler, based in the school was published in 1977, and is about friendship while growing up.
After she retired, she often visited the school, and her books are still used with the children to encourage their artwork and imaginative writing. Other titles about the school include the Snaggletooth's Mystery and Gowie Corby Plays Chicken. One book based at Cricklepit, Charlie Lewis Plays for Time, was dramatised for the stage.
Kemp had three children–a daughter, Judith, from her first marriage, to Norman Pattison, a second daughter, Chantal, and son, Richard, from her second marriage. Chantal illustrated many of her mother's books. Allan Kemp, her second husband who was a respected Labour politician and trade union worker in Exeter, died in 1990. She died at the age of 88 on 4 January 2015. She left £1,000 to the St Sidwell's School library in her will.
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