TRIBUTES has been paid to Benjamin Zephaniah, who brought his musical and literary talents to Bridport.

Writer Professor Benjamin has died at the age of 65, his family have announced.

The dub poet, known for his works about refugees and healthy eating and who also appeared in hit BBC show Peaky Blinders as Jeremiah Jesus, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour shortly before his death.

Ahead of his performance at the Electric Palace in Bridport in May 2019,  Benjamin praised the beauty of Dorset and told the Bridport News - 'I remember thinking about how beautiful all the scenery was down there.'

Paying tribute on X, formerly known as Twitter, west Dorset resident and musician Billy Bragg said Benjamin was 'his friend'.

"Very sorry to hear this news. Benjamin Zephaniah was our radical poet laureate. Rest in power, my friend," he wrote.

Writer and poet Louisa Adjoa Parker, who used to live in Lyme Regis and has twice been shortlisted in the Bridport Prize, said she was 'in tears' having heard the news of the poet's death.

Those behind the Bridport Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in the literary world, paid tribute to the poet, writer and humanitarian by retweeting the words of the Black British Book Festival, which said: "We're deeply saddened by the loss of Benjamin Zephaniah, a pioneering dub poet and author whose energy, vibe and unapologetic work paved the way for Black British writers. 

"We're forever grateful for his contributions and commitment. His legacy will live on forever."

His agent confirmed his death to the PA news agency.

Benjamin's family said in a statement: "It is with great sadness and regret that we announced the death of our beloved husband, son and brother in the early hours of this morning 7th December 2023.

"Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago.

"Benjamin's wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed.

"We shared him with the world and we know many will be shocked and saddened by this news.

"Benjamin was a true pioneer and innovator, he gave the world so much. Through an amazing career including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television, and radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy.

"Thank you for the love you have shown Professor Benjamin Zephaniah."

The Birmingham-born poet was nominated for autobiography of the year at the National Book Awards for his work, The Life And Rhymes Of Benjamin Zephaniah, and it was also shortlisted for the Costa Book Award in 2018.

In an interview with the Bridport News, ahead of performing with his band The Revolutionary Minds, Benjamin 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."

He told of his 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 was kicked out of school at the age of 13, unable to read or write and had dyslexia.

In his 20s he travelled to London where his first book Pen Rhythm was published by Page One Book.

His first writings used dub poetry, a Jamaica style of work that has evolved into the music genre of the same name, and he would also perform with the group The Benjamin Zephaniah Band.

Benjamin, who rejected an OBE in 2003 due to the association of such an honour with the British Empire and its history of slavery, was often outspoken on racial abuse and education.

The Black Writers' Guild, of which Zephaniah was a founding member, said it is in "mourning at the loss of a deeply valued friend and a titan of British literature".

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, the group also wrote: "Benjamin was a man of integrity and an example of how to live your values.

"His life was a testimony to the transformational power of reading and the importance of craft."

During his music career, Zephaniah worked with Irish singer Sinead O'Connor on Empire and British musician Howard Jones and drummer Trevor Morais on his album Naked.

As a children's poet, he wrote Talking Turkeys, We Sang Across The Sea: The Empire Windrush And Me and Nature Trail.

PEN Pinter Prize winner and children's author Michael Rosen - Children's Laureate from 2007 to 2009 - called Zephaniah's death "tragic terrible news".

Writing on X, he said: "I'm devastated. I admired him, respected him, learnt from him, loved him. Love and condolences to the family and to all who loved him too."

Also among the tributes was musician and activist Billy Bragg, Premier League football club Aston Villa and DJ and presenter Trevor Nelson.

In an X post, Aston Villa paid tribute to the ambassador of the AVFC Foundation as a " legendary writer and poet".

Nelson wrote on the same social media site: "Too young, too soon, he had a lot more to give. He was a unique talent R.I.P."