Saffron Hall’s season of Thoughts & Talks, which has so far featured broadcaster John Humphreys and soprano Lesley Garrett, continues this month with wisdom from Benjamin Zephaniah.
One of the best-loved British poets of the past 50 years, he’s almost certainly the most anti-establishment, too, having turned down an OBE for its connotations of colonial brutality and slavery. He’s also been a driving force in campaigns against the police and other bodies, helping to expose corruption and wrongdoing, including working with the family of Stephen Lawrence.
His bestselling autobiography, released last year, offers both a trip down memory lane and a political history, highlighting his friendship with Nelson Mandela, his personal battles with racism in the UK and his vocal support for the least well-off in our society.
“They say that you mellow with age,” says Benjamin. “But if anything, I’m getting angrier and angrier. There is so much injustice in the world and there are so many things wrong in society that there would be something wrong with me if I was willing to just sit back.”
Benjamin’s book, The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah, is being accompanied by a major tour, his first in eight years. He’s taking to the road to talk about some of the stories he tells and to reconnect with an engaged fan base that supports equality and veganism, among other issues.
“I’ve been on the road with my band in the past year and we’ve played some great shows. But it’s been a long time since I’ve done any one-man shows. I did a tour when the hardback was out last year and this follows publication of the paperback. So, yes, I’m looking forward to getting on the road again. It’s always quite daunting. But I enjoy meeting people when I’m on the road and there’s so much to talk about this time around.”
See him speak at Saffron Hall on 9 November, with tickets starting at £10.