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Benjamin going on tour with the story of his life

Benjamin Zephaniah
Benjamin Zephaniah

Poet, musician, novelist and actor Benjamin Zephaniah is taking to the road again this summer to talk about his life and work to coincide with the release of his autobiography.

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah: An Autobiography was published by Simon and Schuster on Thursday and charts his upbringing in Birmingham, where he faced racism in the 1960s.

In the book, Benjamin, who moved to the outskirts of Spalding ten years ago, talks candidly of his own time living outside the law and how he broke away from the path his school teachers told him was inevitable.

The memoir also gives an insight into his mother’s life, as she was lured to Britain from Jamaica with the promise of a better life like so many of her generation.

“The works is an autobiography and a social history. They say you mellow with age, but if anything, I’m angrier than I’ve ever been,” says Benjamin.

“There is still injustice, there is still hate, there is still intolerance.

“The Life and Rhymes is about the race riots, the struggle to free Mandela, my career as a writer and poet, and much more. It charts my course through a changing political and cultural landscape.”

From as young as eight, Benjamin decided he wanted to be a performance poet and made it his mission to take poetry everywhere.

He moved to London and emerged as a uniquely dynamic performer, at a time when punks and rastas were fighting Thatcherism and the National Front in the 1980s.

Nelson Mandela formed a close friendship with him after hearing his musical tribute to him recorded with The Wailers – he was the first artist to do so since the death of Bob Marley.

Although best known for his poetry, Benjamin is also an award-winning playwright, a novelist, political activist and musician. He has written several novels for teenagers too and is an outspoken campaigner for human and animal rights.

He also continues to record and release albums with his reggae band.

“I was lucky – I had a strong vision at the age of eight about what I wanted to do with my life and I have seen it come true,” he says.

“I’m always talking to young people and telling them to be whatever they want to be, as long as their goals are realistic – I am never going to be King of England, but I can be a good representation of myself and that’s realistic.

“As long as goals are realistic - if you really have a passion for it, you can achieve it.”

• The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah: The Autobiography is published by Simon and Schuster, priced £20.

For more information on Benjamin’s forthcoming tour visit www.benjaminzephaniah.com

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