05/06/2024

    I first met Benjamin Zephaniah in Northern Ireland at the Bloody Sunday inquiry hearings. He was poet in residence in Michael Mansfield’s chambers. It was an appointment he relished, and he was fascinated by watching the political and legal processes of a public inquiry.

    A few years later we each received an honorary degree from Westminster University. Benjamin told the students how he had turned down an OBE because he did not believe in the honours system. However, he always accepted honorary doctorates because the idea of education and studying was paramount, and this was his 11th.

    He also admitted to an ulterior motive: his mother had been a nurse, and when he went back home to stay and she cooked him breakfast, he loved coming down the stairs to hear her say: “Good morning, doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor, doctor …” He was a great poet and brought much joy and wisdom to everyone he met.

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