Benjamin Zephaniah

Children's Author

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Agent: Emily Talbot
Associate Agent: Molly Jamieson


Assistant: Amber Hill
Associate Agent: Jennifer Karniely


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 18 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. Unfortunately, Benjamin is no longer able to take on school visits.

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Benjamin Zephaniah, who has travelled the world for his art and his humanitarianism, now tells the one story that encompasses it all: the story of his life.

In the early 1980s when punks and Rastas were on the streets protesting about unemployment, homelessness and the National Front, Benjamin’s poetry could be heard at demonstrations, outside police stations and on the dance floor. His mission was to take poetry everywhere, and to popularise it by reaching people who didn’t read books. His poetry was political, musical, radical and relevant

By the early 1990s, Benjamin had performed on every continent in the world (a feat which he achieved in only one year) and he hasn’t stopped performing and touring since. Nelson Mandela, after hearing Benjamin’s tribute to him while he was in prison, requested an introduction to the poet that grew into a lifelong relationship, inspiring Benjamin’s work with children in South Africa. Benjamin would also go on to be the first artist to record with The Wailers after the death of Bob Marley in a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah is a truly extraordinary life story which celebrates the power of poetry and the importance of pushing boundaries with the arts.