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Benjamin Zephaniah news: Tributes pour in for Talking Turkeys poet and Peaky Blinders star

The literary world is in mourning for the poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah, who has died age 65.

The Birmingham-born dub poet, best known for collections such as Talking Turkeys, died on Thursday (7 December). He had been diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago, his family shared.

“It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the death of our beloved Husband, Son, and Brother in the early hours of this morning,” a statement posted on his social media channels read.

“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.”

One of Britain’s most prolific and outspoken literary voices, Zephaniah dealt with themes of racism, poverty, and social injustice in his work.

Pioneering poet Benjamin Zephaniah dies aged 65

  • Benjamin Zephaniah dies aged 65

  • Cillian Murphy shares tribute to Peaky Blinders co-star

  • Why Benjamin Zephaniah turned down OBE

  • ‘Talking Turkeys’, Benjamin Zephaniah’s festive poetry masterpiece

Thursday 7 December 2023 21:21 , Jacob Stolworthy

Nitin Sawhney has paid tribute to Benjamin Zephaniah by sharing a video of the poer supporting Natty five years ago.

Thursday 7 December 2023 21:09 , Jacob Stolworthy

But in fairness, it seems like Nick was well liked in camp. And his absence now means Sam is sole chef. “Be prepared for some bad meals,” he quips.

Thursday 7 December 2023 21:09 , Jacob Stolworthy

“This has me harder than anyone else leaving for sure,” Sam says of Nick’s departure. Bit of a slight on Frankie, Nella and Fred.

Remembering when Loyle Carner met his hero, Benjamin Zephaniah

Thursday 7 December 2023 20:58 , Jacob Stolworthy

As tributes continue to pour in for the pioneering British poet, a touching interview between Zephaniah and UK rapper Loyle Carner has resurfaced.

In 2017, The Independent introduced Zephaniah to one of his biggest fans, with Carner revealing that the dub poet’s politically inspired work influenced him as a teenager.

Read more about their meeting below:

Peaky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy shares tribute to ‘truly gifted’ co-star Benjamin Zephaniah

Thursday 7 December 2023 20:00 , Jacob Stolworthy

The pair appeared together in the BBC period crime drama, with Murphy playing protagonist Tommy Shelby and Zephaniah as Jeremiah “Jimmy” Jesus, a Jamaican-born street preacher and friend of Shelby’s.

Read more

Cillian Murphy remembers ‘proud Brummie and Peaky Blinder’ Benjamin Zephaniah

Thursday 7 December 2023 19:38 , Jacob Stolworthy

Comedian Joe Lycett has paid tribute to Benjamin Zephaniah.

He wrote on X/Twitter: “I feel sad today. Benjamin Zephaniah’s work was accessible yet eloquent, powerful and often really funny. The city of Birmingham adored him. What a loss.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 19:22 , Jacob Stolworthy

Musician Billy Bragg has tweeted: “Very sorry to hear this news. Benjamin Zephaniah was our radical poet laureate. Rest in power, my friend.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 18:21 , Jacob Stolworthy

Peaky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy shares tribute to ‘truly gifted’ co-star Benjamin Zephaniah: ‘A beautiful human being’

Cillian Murphy has shared an emotional tribute to his Peaky Blinders co-star Zephaniah, remembering him as “a truly gifted and beautiful human being”.

“Benjamin was a truly gifted and beautiful human being – a generational poet, writer, musician and activist,” he told Press Association. “A proud Brummie and a Peaky Blinder. I’m so saddened by this news. RIP.”

Zephaniah played the role of Jeremiah “Jimmy” Jesus on the BBC historical drama from 2013 to 2022.

Thursday 7 December 2023 17:43 , Jacob Stolworthy

Helen Brown interviewed Zephaniah on many occassions before his death.

Here, she speaks about what made him so special, both to herself and her autistic son on whom his poetry had such a profound effect.

I met Benjamin Zephaniah many times – he was as open and kind-hearted as his poetry

WATCH: Why Benjamin Zephaniah turned down OBE

Thursday 7 December 2023 17:20 , Jacob Stolworthy

One of Zephaniah’s most quoted acts of resistance is his rejection of an OBE.

He was offered an appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2003, but ultimately turned it down due to not wanting to associate himself with the British Empire. “I’ve been fighting against Empire all my life,” he explained on The Big Narstie Show in 2020.

How Benjamin Zephaniah’s brilliant performance in Peaky Blinders brought him to a wider global audience

Thursday 7 December 2023 16:26 , Isobel Lewis

The death of Benjamin Zephaniah has led fans across generations to reminisce on some of his most impactful work.

Alongside his poetry, Zephaniah is also known to many for his performance in the period crime drama Peaky Blinders, playing a Jamaican-born street preacher called Jeremiah “Jimmy” Jesus.

Revisiting Benjamin Zephaniah’s brilliant turn in Peaky Blinders

Comedian Lucy Beaumont shares ‘fan email’ Benjamin Zephaniah sent her: ‘I just can’t tell if you’re joking or not'

Thursday 7 December 2023 15:49 , Isobel Lewis

Comedian Lucy Beaumont has shared a “fan email” she received from Zephaniah in 2020.

The poet emailed the Taskmaster star, who is married to fellow comic Jon Richardson, declaring himself a fan but admitting that he had no idea whether Beaumont’s ditzy on-stage personality was a “joke” or not.

“I just can’t tell if you’re joking or not,” he wrote. “I was with some friends, who asked me if you were joking or not, and I said, I don’t know, and Lucy said she doesn’t even know.”

‘Talking Turkeys’, Benjamin Zephaniah’s festive poetry masterpiece

Thursday 7 December 2023 15:20 , Isobel Lewis

One of Zephaniah’s most famous works is “Talking Turkeys”, his 1994 street poem about why people should not eat turkey at Christmas time.

You can read the full poem below:

“Talking Turkeys”

Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas

Cos’ turkeys just wanna hav funTurkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked

An every turkey has a Mum.

Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,

Don’t eat it, keep it alive,

It could be yu mate, an not on your plate

Say, Yo! Turkey I’m on your side.

I got lots of friends who are turkeys

An all of dem fear christmas time,

Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it

An humans are out of dere mind,

Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys

Dey all hav a right to a life,

Not to be caged up an genetically made up

By any farmer an his wife.

Turkeys just wanna play reggae

Turkeys just wanna hip-hop

Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,‘

I cannot wait for de chop’,

Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,

Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain

In many ways like yu an me.

I once knew a turkey called…Turkey

He said “Benji explain to me please,

Who put de turkey in christmas

An what happens to christmas trees?”,

I said “I am not too sure turkey

But it’s nothing to do wid Christ Mass

Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be

An business men mek loadsa cash’.

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas

Invite dem indoors fe sum greens

Let dem eat cake an let dem partake

In a plate of organic grown beans,

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas

An spare dem de cut of de knife,

Join Turkeys United an dey’ll be delighted

An yu will mek new friends ‘FORLIFE’.

Thursday 7 December 2023 15:08 , Isobel Lewis

Brunel University London, where Zephaniah was a professor of creative writing, said on Twitter/X it is “greatly saddened” by the poet’s death.

It added: “Our thoughts are with his family and all who are close to him.”

Remembering when Loyle Carner met his hero, Benjamin Zephaniah

Thursday 7 December 2023 13:47 , Isobel Lewis

As tributes continue to pour in for the pioneering British poet, a touching interview between Zephaniah and UK rapper Loyle Carner has resurfaced.

In 2017, The Independent introduced Zephaniah to one of his biggest fans, with Carner revealing that the dub poet’s politically inspired work influenced him as a teenager.

Read more about their meeting below:

When Loyle Carner met his hero, Benjamin Zephaniah

Peaky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy shares tribute to ‘truly gifted’ co-star Benjamin Zephaniah: ‘A beautiful human being'

Thursday 7 December 2023 13:44 , Isobel Lewis

Cillian Murphy has shared an emotional tribute to his Peaky Blinders co-star Zephaniah, remembering him as “a truly gifted and beautiful human being”.

“Benjamin was a truly gifted and beautiful human being – a generational poet, writer, musician and activist,” he told Press Association. “A proud Brummie and a Peaky Blinder. I’m so saddened by this news. RIP.”

Zephaniah played the role of Jeremiah “Jimmy” Jesus on the BBC historical drama from 2013 to 2022.

Thursday 7 December 2023 13:37 , Isobel Lewis

The Black British Book Festival writes: “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.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 13:28 , Isobel Lewis

Zephaniah has been remembered as “the loveliest guy you could wish to meet” by football pundit Stan Collymore.

“Incredibly sad news of the passing of Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, teacher, actor and one of Britain’s great post war writers. A Villan too, to his core, and the loveliest guy you could wish to meet,” he wrote.

WATCH: Why Benjamin Zephaniah turned down OBE

Thursday 7 December 2023 13:10 , Nicole Vassell

One of Zephaniah’s most quoted acts of resistance is his rejection of an OBE.

He was offered an appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2003, but ultimately turned it down due to not wanting to associate himself with the British Empire. “I’ve been fighting against Empire all my life,” he explained on The Big Narstie Show in 2020.

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:56 , Nicole Vassell

Author and Birmingham City University professor Kehinde Andrews has remembered a “Brum legend” in his post.

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:50 , Nicole Vassell

The author Diana Evans has stated that she is “entering mourning” after the news of Zephaniah’s death.

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:40 , Nicole Vassell

Chinonyerem Odimba, playwright of Black Love, has also shared her reaction to the news.

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:32 , Nicole Vassell

Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle has added his voice to the many people paying tribute to Zephaniah across social media.

Reposting Zephaniah’s official account’s announcement, the writer and comic wrote: “So very sad to hear this. The world has lost a strong, strong human being. Rest in Power.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:19 , Isobel Lewis

Writer Derek Owusu has shared his own memories of Zephaniah on social media.

“Benjamin expressed a calmness to the idea death and said that perhaps it’s just his time,” he said. “When discussing not being here anymore, he said, in jest, the only thing he worries about is not being here to see Aston Villa win the Premiership. I will miss him.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:12 , Isobel Lewis

Aston Villa, the football team of which Zephaniah was a life-long fan, has shared a number of tributes on social media.

“Everyone at Aston Villa is deeply saddened by news of the passing of legendary writer and poet, Benjamin Zephaniah,” they wrote on Twitter/X.

“Named as one of Britain’s top 50 post-war writers in 2008, Benjamin was a lifelong Aston Villa fan and had served as an ambassador for the @AVFCFoundation. The thoughts and condolences of all at the club are with his family and friends at this time.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:03 , Isobel Lewis

“Such sad news about the great Benjamin Zephaniah,” wrote author and How to Fail podcast host Elizabeth Day.

“Author of the first poetry collection I ever owned. A magnificent presence in literature and in life.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 12:00 , Isobel Lewis

Musician Billy Bragg has tweeted: “Very sorry to hear this news. Benjamin Zephaniah was our radical poet laureate. Rest in power, my friend.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 11:58 , Isobel Lewis

Author Nels Abbey wrote: “Our learned and beloved elder, Benjamin Zephaniah is now an ancestor.

“To call this crushing news is a massive understatement. He was far too young, far too brilliant and still had so much to offer. A loss we’ll never recover from. RIP Professor Zephaniah.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 11:50 , Isobel Lewis

Radio presenter and DJ Trevor Nelson has honoured Zephaniah as a “unique talent”.

“So sad to hear about the passing of Benjamin Zephaniah,” he wrote. “Too young, too soon, he had a lot more to give. He was a unique talent. RIP.”

Thursday 7 December 2023 11:48 , Isobel Lewis

Charlene White, ITV News presenter and Loose Women star, has paid tribute on social media.

Michael Rosen ‘devastated’ by Zephaniah death

Thursday 7 December 2023 11:45 , Isobel Lewis

Author Michael Rosen is among the first literary figures to pay tribute to Zephaniah.

“The tragic terrible news has come to me that Benjamin Zephaniah’s family have announced that Benjamin has died,” he wrote on Twitter/X.

“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.”

Rosen has encouraged his followers to send their fondest memories of Zephaniah.

Benjamin Zephaniah, writer and poet known for his work on race and racism, dies aged 65

Thursday 7 December 2023 11:38 , Isobel Lewis

Pioneering British writer and poet Benjamin Zephaniah has died aged 65, eight weeks after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

In a statement shared on social media on Thursday (7 December), his family shared: “It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the death of our beloved Husband, Son, and Brother in the early hours of this morning. 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.”

Read more below:

Pioneering British writer Benjamin Zephaniah dies, aged 65