I KNEW my conversation with poet, writer and humanitarian Benjamin Zephaniah wouldn't be based around small talk on the weather - but I had no idea it would be so thought-provoking.

Fresh from an appearance on The One Show, Benjamin, 61, is on the phone to me from his hotel and he's buzzing after being presented with clips on the show of children reading poetry they'd written themselves.

Although best known for his poetry, Benjamin is coming to Bridport Electric Palace on Wednesday, May 15 to perform with his band The Revolutionary Minds.

The audience can expect to hear 'music with a message', he says.

"It's reggae, very modern, it's also house music and has a message. I want to get people to open their minds and think differently. If you think about culture generally now it's changing.

"I've heard some guy talking to a couple of other guys referring to women as 'birds with t*ts' and I said 'what are you guys talking about?' It sounds so old-fashioned and disrespectful, you need to respect women - I always think about my mother and sister and I wouldn't want them to be referred to like that. I hope that people can start thinking differently.

"My last album with Revolutionary Minds was like that. It's about thinking outside the box and thinking differently."

Birmingham-born Benjamin often appears on BBC1's Question Time and says the one thing he tells people in any debate is 'think for yourself'.

He tells me: "People say 'As an Englishman, Scotsman, a German, I think this'...but then I say to people 'What if you weren't a Catholic or an Englishman, what would you think. What do you really think? You have to forget the prejudice and sometimes it's a difficult thing to admit.'

"We're all in groups, in packs and sometimes we want to go along with the pack - when I was growing up in the inner city I was expected to be in a gang and but the greatest thing I ever learned from my time in school was thinking for myself, writing my poetry, being creative and doing all the things I love to do. And if I hadn't been thinking for myself I'd still be in Birmingham, but now I get to go all over the world doing the things I love - poetry and art."

Benjamin has passionately campaigned to bring poetry into the mainstream.

Growing up, he was a part of gangs and spent time in borstal and prison. A difficult childhood saw both he and his mother beaten by his late father. But once he found a gift with words he turned to poetry, penning multiple poetry books after publishing his first poetry collection aged 22.

Benjamin said: "It's great the children were writing their own poetry - I remember when I was at school, putting together a poem was hard work. And I remember being told about poets and they were all white men. Now things have changed.

"This is a golden time for poetry, it's very exciting to see where it's going. You don't know where the next Instagram poet is out there. There are some people out there doing really good work. And some of them don't even have poetry books!"

The tour with Revolutionary Minds will go on until the end of the year, Benjamin tells me.

"At the same time I'm going to be doing the book tour as well. So I'll have two tours going on simultaneously! It's nice for me to tour with the band though rather than be on my own," he says.

Benjamin's book tour will promote his autobiography The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah, which has just been released in paperback.

The book's success in hardback has surprised Benjamin, he says.

"I thought the book would come out and sell about the same as my other books. I didn't think it would do half as well as it did. The BBC is making a film of it. It's hard to believe that my story has been read all over the world. It's not just the story of Benjamin Zephaniah, it covers the Thatcher years, anti-apartheid, it's so significant because I think when I write books, I didn't think I would write a book where the main character has been me!"

Next up for Benjamin is finishing another novel for teenagers.

"I'm so lucky that I get the chance to do that," he said. "I always remind myself that most people are doing a job they don't like but myself, you journalists are doing something creative that we love and people can see the results and can see how it changes the world, we're really lucky to be doing what we're doing. I'm always really appreciative of that.

"I have a friend who's a translator and she said how hard she was finding her job and I said 'Take a breather, don't let it all get on top of you. Some people go to work and just die hating what they do. You have to appreciate what you have and that you get to do something that you love."

It's been a while since Benjamin has been down to this neck of the woods.

He said: "I haven't been down to the West Country for a while now. When I was doing a poetry book, I remember driving down on the way to Penzance and thinking about how beautiful all the scenery was down there."

And Benjamin even has a family link to Dorset.

"I used to have a relative in Weymouth many years ago - and I keep thinking - shall I go on holiday there? Or shall I go to Jamaica? It's a tough choice," he laughs.

*Benjamin Zephaniah and Revolutionary Minds, Bridport Electric Palace, Bridport, Wednesday, May 15, 8pm. Call the box office for tickets.