Poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah dies at 65 after brain tumour diagnosis

The poet, pictured here in 2019, was born in Handsworth, Birmingham. Credit: PA Images

The poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah has died at the age of 65.

Born and raised in Handsworth, Birmingham, he went on to become one of Britain's best-loved poets.

Amongst other awards, he was given a number of honorary doctorates recognising his work - most recently from the University of Birmingham in 2008.

Alongside his poetry and literature, he was also known for acting roles, such as his appearances in the hit TV series Peaky Blinders set in 1920s Birmingham.

A statement from his family posted to social media said: "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, 7 December 2023.

"Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumour 8 weeks go."

The statement continued: "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."

Musician Loyle Carner paid tribute on social media, describing Benjamin as "the man that gave me my name, my hero.

"Promise to take your words forwards. Thank you for guiding the way."

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands stated: "Benjamin Zephaniah was a pioneer - from his beautiful poems & music, to his acting prowess & fearless campaigning."One of Birmingham’s greatest sons, he leaves a legacy that’ll be remembered across the U.K. for generations."

Fellow poet Michael Rosen also paid tribute, saying: "The tragic terrible news has come to me that Benjamin Zephaniah's family have announced that Benjamin has died.

"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."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...