Poet, actor and political activist Benjamin Zephaniah has died. He was aged 65.
The news was announced via an update on his Instagram page, and confirmed that he died in the early hours of Wednesday morning (December 6). His death comes after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour just eight weeks ago.
“Benjamin’s wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed,” the post read. “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,” it added. “Through an amazing career including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television and radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy”.
Zephaniah rose to fame throughout the ‘80s – most famous for his poetry works which often touched upon topics such as race and the British legal system. By the ‘90s, he was considered one of the most influential voices in the UK.
Famously, he turned down an OBE in 2003, writing: “Benjamin Zephaniah OBE – no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire.” He also said he had begged Tony Blair to meet him to discuss crime in Britain and told the Queen to stop “going on about the empire”.
Born and raised in Birmingham which he often referred to as the “Jamaican capital of Europe”, the poet also went on to take on numerous acting roles. These included appearances on UK television shows including The Bill.
His most famous role, however, took place 10 years ago, when he took on the role of Jeremiah in the hit BBC drama Peaky Blinders back in 2013.
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