Writer, poet and Peaky Blinders star Benjamin Zephaniah dies

Writer, poet and Peaky Blinders star Benjamin Zephaniah dies

Benjamin Zephaniah, the British poet and writer, has died aged 65.

He was diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago, a post on his Instagram page said, describing him as a “true pioneer and innovator” who “gave the world so much”.

“Benjamin’s wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed,” it added.

“Through an amazing career, including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television and radio, Benjamin leaves with us a joyful and fantastic legacy.”

Fourteen collections of his poetry were published as well as five novels.

Zephaniah was a dub poet, too, and played the role of Jeremiah Jesus in Peaky Blinders.

He turned down an OBE in 2003, writing: “Benjamin Zephaniah OBE – no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire.”

He begged Tony Blair to meet him to discuss crime in Britain, he said, and told the Queen to stop “going on about the empire”.

Born in Birmingham, Zephaniah was nominated for autobiography of the year at the National Book Awards for The Life And Rhymes Of Benjamin Zephaniah.

It was also shortlisted for the Costa Book Award in 2018.

The Black Writers’ Guild said Zephaniah was a “deeply valued friend” and a “titan of British literature”.

He was also a “testimony to the transformational power of reading” and the “importance of craft”, it added.

The children’s author and poet Michael Rosen said he was “devastated” and had “learnt from him” and “loved him”.

The Hay book festival said on social media: “Thank you for everything.”

DJ and presenter Trevor Nelson said Zephaniah was a “unique talent” who had a “lot more to give”.

Zephaniah was diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago

Aston Villa Football Club said Zephaniah was a “lifelong fan” and had served as an ambassador for the club’s foundation.

It said it was “deeply saddened” about the “legendary” writer and poet’s passing.