Alex Wheatle was born in 1963 to Jamaican parents living in London. He spent most of his childhood in a children's home, which he left at 14 to live in a hostel in Brixton. At 18, he was involved in the Brixton uprising and went to prison for 3 months. On his release, he continued to perform as a DJ and MC under the name Yardman Irie, moving in the early '90s on to the performance poetry circuit as The Brixton Bard. His second novel, East of Acre Lane, won the London New Writers Award (2000).