Why Devon is so special for Stranger Things singer Kate Bush

A woman with long dark hair and a grey cardigan singing into a microphone.

Kate Bush performing Running up that Hill back in 1985 when it was originally released. - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Her global fame has ramped up to another level after one of her songs was used in the soundtrack for a worldwide smash TV series...and yet Devon remains the place where Kate Bush retreats away from it all, as BERNARD BALE discovers  

Superstar Kate is notoriously private and her clifftop property in East Portlemouth could not have been a better choice for her when she bought it and moved in some years ago. With 17 acres of farmland and a five-bedroom mansion, Kate has her paradise home in the county. 

And the privacy it affords Kate and her family will be all the more welcome to her right now as she once again finds herself in the global spotlight. 

Recently Kate has been topping the charts again with Running Up That Hill, which has had a new lease of life following its initial huge success back in 1985. The song has seen a fresh surge in popularity having been included in the latest series of smash hit Netflix series Stranger Things

In the fourth series of the TV drama, Sadie Sink’s character Max Mayfield is battling her demons and it is her favourite song Running Up That Hill that helps to save her, after falling into a sinister trance.   

Lovers of the TV show have sought out Kate's iconic song following its inclusion as key part of the plot in the show. It has meant a whole new generation of fans loving her music...and a renewed focus on the star and her work, which means her notoriously well-guarded private life has come under scrutiny once more. And that means her love of privacy and seclusion at her Devon home must be all the more valuable to her. 

“Devon is just lovely,” said Kate. “I think it was love at first sight and we have been here ever since, the countryside is beautiful and the coastline is fantastic. Add to that the really nice people of Devon and you have just a great place to live.” 

Cover of the 7" single version of Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush, released in 1985.

Running Up That Hill was originally released in 1985. - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

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And as for being number one again, nobody is more surprised than Kate herself, as she recently told Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour: “It is totally amazing and unexpected. It was first released more than 35 years ago – ouch! 

“It went to number three then and here we are today at number one. I am so very grateful to the Duffer Brothers for including this song in their drama. I am flattered that their central character is a Kate Bush fan but who would have thought that it would result in Running Up That Hill being top of the pops after all these years? 

“It is all a bit overwhelming really and moving, very moving. It is really exciting to have something totally unexpected like this happen and I sincerely thank everyone concerned. It’s a new experience to have an old song become a huge success. I’m not sure I have quite taken it all in but I’m very grateful.” 

Kate is not just one of the world's biggest selling recording stars but also one of its most mysterious. Millions have bought her albums but few know much about her except that she is an incredible talent. 

She comes originally from Kent and, while she had no professional influence at the start, she was born into a family who certainly enjoyed their music. 

“My mother, Hannah, was of Irish descent and loved music and dancing so I think she was a big influence. That said, my father, Robert, was a doctor but also a very good pianist and so there was always music in the house when I was growing up.” 

A young singer with long dark hair and bright red lipstick.

Kate Bush originally found worldwide fame at an early age. - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Home was a farmhouse in East Wickham, not far from Welling. There was more than one reason why it was a pretty good place to spend her early years. 

“As well as there being music around all the time, my older brothers John and Paddy were into folk music so that was another influence,” she said. “Best of all, we had an organ in the barn behind the house and I used to go and play on that from an early age. I wasn't yet in my teens when I started to write songs. I think living where we did was a big help because there were not too many distractions.” 

Kate was brought up a Roman Catholic and went to a convent school where she was described as being very quiet and quite withdrawn. “I think I was into my own world and being creative rather than anything else,” she explained. “I learned but writing songs was more important to me.” 

Her family were encouraging and even helped make a demo tape of some of Kate's songs which initially did not raise much interest. A family friend, Ricky Hopper, was involved in the music industry so he made a more professional tape and sent it off to Dave Gilmour of the legendary Pink Floyd. 

“I am very grateful for all the support I had,” said Kate. “I was 16 when that demo tape was made and I was totally amazed when Dave Gilmour responded by saying he thought it was great and offered to get me into the recording studio. At last someone was taking an interest.” 

It was not long before the whole world was taking an interest. 

“I was still quite young and had to finish my schooling which ended with a number of O Level passes. I wanted to learn more so, having had an advance for my contract with EMI, I was able to enrol with Lindsay Kemp who was more than just a dance teacher, he was a performance teacher. David Bowie learned a lot from him and so did I. He was incredible, a one-off and I was incredibly lucky to study with him, work with him and spend time with him. 

“I also took mime classes with Adam Darius who was a genius and I learned so much from him as well. I completed my schooling but it was only when I left school that I realised how much freedom there was to express myself. School was good but inhibiting. Music and performance was my freedom.” 

A pop singer with long, dark hair performing live in 1978.

Kate Bush performing her first hit, Wuthering Heights, in 1978.

It was in 1978 that Kate became an international star when her epic song, Wuthering Heights, was released and soared to the top of the music charts, remaining at number one for an entire month. 

“It was an amazing time but also a very busy one because I was suddenly being asked for TV appearances and interviews,” said Kate. “It was breathtaking but I was again well supported and didn't get caught in a stampede.  

“It taught me a lot too – to do things at my own pace rather than try to keep up with the demands of everyone else. I became quickly aware of the outside pressures of being famous affecting my work. It seemed ironic that I was expected to do interviews and television which took me away from my work.” 

It is fair to say that Kate has always been her own person and there have been long gaps between her recording sessions and personal appearances. 

“I like to get things right and I don't dwell in the past, I am always looking at doing something new and it doesn't just happen when you want it too. I am flattered when people say they are looking forward to the next album or whatever but I don't record for the sake of it, I want it always to be special. 

“It's a bit like acting. I like acting but I never wanted to be an actress. I just wanted to be the best I could and when you make a music video, I like it to tell a story, to reflect the song rather than just be a lot of photo shots strung together with no particular plan. 

“It surprises people that I don't listen to my old stuff. The truth is that I don't listen to much music at all, although I love music. I don't want my previous work to influence what I do next so I don't listen to it. I am more likely to watch a film for relaxation, preferably with the family. I am an avid reader too, especially the classics. I read and ponder everything, some of them have quite a profound effect on me.” 

Actress Sadie Sink at the world premiere of Season 3 of Stranger Things.

The character Max Mayfield who loves the song Running Up That Hill is played by the actress Sadie Sink, pictured at at a premiere for Stranger Things. - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Kate is also a vegetarian: "I haven't always been but I made the choice myself. I just decided one day that I didn't want an animal to be killed just so that I could eat it.  That was it, I have never eaten meat since. I like to make my own decisions.” 

She is now back in the spotlight with a whole new legion of fans and no doubt many of those fans also live in Devon – another reason for Kate to enjoy living here for many more years to come.