Benjamin Zephaniah

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Dr Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah was born and raised in Handsworth, Birmingham. At that time he called it the Jamaican capital of Europe due to the large Jamaican community there. His first real public performance was at 11 years old and by the age of 15 he had attracted a strong following in Handsworth and had gained a reputation as a young poet who was capable of speaking on local and international issues. His poetry was strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he called ‘street politics’.

At 22, he headed south to London where his first book Pen Rhythm was published. The book sold well, but it was in performance that the Dub (Reggae) Poet would cause such a revolution. It was once said of him that he was the most filmed, most photographed, and most identifiable poet in Britain. His live performances on stage and, most of all, on television bought Dub Poetry straight into British living rooms. He then began to take his poetry worldwide and over a 22 day period in 1991 he performed on every continent on the planet!

He is also a musician and was the first person to record with the Wailers after the death of Bob Marley. His latest album, Naked, defies categorisation; it is produced by legendary drummer Trevor Morais and adorned with the art work of graffiti artist Banksy in a 36 page booklet which accompanies the CD. In 1996 he hosted the “President’s Two Nations Concerts” for Nelson Mandela at the Royal Albert Hall in London, at the request of Nelson Mandela.

Benjamin’s first book of children’s poetry called Talking Turkeys went to the top of the children’s book list straight after its publication. Young writers have said that the accessibility of his work inspired many of them to take up writing and he has inspired a new generation of rappers and many of the performance poets that emerged in the late seventies/early eighties. And now his novels for teenagers have proved as influential as his poetry.

As well as writing poetry, novels, screenplays, and stage plays, he has also written and presented documentaries for television and radio. He has been awarded 13 honorary doctorates in recognition of his work and a wing at The Ealing Hospital in West London has been named after him. As passionate about politics and poetry as he has ever been, Benjamin now lives in Lincolnshire.

Please note that United Agents represents Benjamin Zephaniah for Literature, television, radio, and commercials. We do not represent him for music or poetry performances.

www.benjaminzephaniah.com

Latest Publication:

TERROR KID (4th September 2014, Hot Key Books)

Rico knows trouble. He knows the look of it and the sound of it. He also knows to stay away from it as best as he can. Because if there's one thing his Romany background has taught him, it's that he will always be a suspect. Despite his best efforts to stay on the right side of the law, Rico is angry and frustrated at the injustices he sees happening at home and around the world. He wants to do something - but what? When he is approached by Speech, a mysterious man who shares Rico's hacktivist interests, Rico is given the perfect opportunity to speak out about injustice. After all, what harm can a peaceful cyber protest do...From the bestselling author of Refugee Boy comes a powerful novel about justice, trust and idealism gone wrong that will make you look again at your definition of a terrorist.

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Dr Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah was born and raised in Handsworth, Birmingham.  His first real public performance was at 11 years old and by the age of 15, he had attracted a strong following in Handsworth and had gained a reputation as a young poet who was capable of speaking on local and international issues.  His poetry was strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he called ‘street politics’.

It was once said of him, that he was the most filmed, most photographed, and most identifiable poet in Britain.  His live performances on stage put poetry on the streets.  His performances on television brought Dub (Reggae) Poetry straight into British living rooms.  He took his poetry worldwide and over a 22 day period in 1991, he performed on every continent on the planet!  He is also a musician and was the first person to record with the Wailers after the death of Bob Marley. His 2004 album ‘Naked’ defies categorisation, and to add to its uniqueness it has a 36 page booklet with the artwork of the artist Banksy.

One of his many political passions was the Anti Apartheid Movement. He was a founding member of Artists Against Apartheid, and in 1996 he hosted the “President’s Two Nations Concerts” at the Royal Albert Hall in London, at the request of Nelson Mandela. On August 29th 2007 he was the Master of Ceremonies at the unveiling of the statue of Nelson Mandela, again at his request, in Parliament Square.

Benjamin’s first book of children’s poetry called Talking Turkeys went to the top of the children’s book list straight after its publication. Young writers have said that the accessibility of his work inspired many of them to take up writing and he has inspired a new generation of rappers and many of the performance poets that emerged in the late seventies/early eighties. And now his novels for teenagers have proved as influential as his poetry.  In October 2009 it was announced that Benjamin was voted the nation’s third favorite poet of all time in a poll run by the BBC. In fact he was the only living poet in the top ten.

As well as writing poetry, novels, screenplays, and stage plays, he has also written and presented documentaries for television and radio. He has been awarded 16 honorary doctorates in recognition of his work and a wing at The Ealing Hospital in West London has been named after him. He is as passionate about politics and poetry as he has ever been, and he now lives in Lincolnshire.

Please note that United Agents represents Benjamin Zephaniah for Literature, television, radio, and commercials. We do not represent him for music or poetry performances.