Ben Okri and Benjamin Zephaniah in conversation

Leading writers Ben Okri and Benjamin Zephaniah will be in conversation on Thursday 15 October, 4pm-5.30pm, as part of Trinity’s celebration of Black History Month.

The Famished Road, Ben Okri’s 1991 novel, won the Booker Prize that year. His other novels include The Age of Magic, Dangerous Love, In Arcadia, Stars of the New Curfew, and Astonishing the Gods. Wild is his latest volume of poetry. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded an OBE in 2001.

Ben Okri. Photo Mat Bray

Benjamin Zephaniah, who is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University, has written numerous novels and volumes of poetry, as well as his autobiography, The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah, which was published in 2018. He is famous for his Dub (Reggae) performances and often (pre-coronarivus) takes The Benjamin Zephaniah Band on the road around the world.

Benjamin Zephaniah. Photo: Brunel University

The conversation between Benjamin Zephaniah and Ben Okri on 15 October will be chaired by Adrian Poole, Emeritus Professor of English at Cambridge, and the Q&A will be moderated by Trinity students, Serena Cole and Wanipa Ndhlovu. The Master of Trinity, Dame Sally Davies, will make concluding remarks.

Any member of member of the University of Cambridge can join the event, which will take place via Zoom webinar.

Wanipa Ndhlovu. Photo: Graham CopeKoga

Wanipa, who is studying Law, was President of the University’s African Caribbean Society 2019-20. She said:

I am so excited to be able to speak with, and glean wisdom from, these two amazing artists. I remember first coming across a Benjamin Zephaniah poem in primary school and being very intrigued. Growing up and hearing him speak on race and class and empire, and now being able to speak with him is an honour.

It will be very interesting to hear both Ben and Benjamin speak on their experiences with Trinity too and understand how far things have progressed since then.

Ben Okri was a Visiting Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts, 1991-1993, a fellowship scheme at Trinity for writers, composers and visual artists that in 2018 celebrated 50 years. Benjamin Zephaniah was in the running for such a Fellowship in 1987.

The current Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts is filmmaker and writer Guy Gunaratne and, in a new role enabled by alumnus Tom Hall, the writer Ali Smith is the Senior Creative Arts Fellow at Trinity. Professor Poole, said:

It’s been wonderful to have had a stream of creative artists in Trinity for over 50 years now. Celebrated as the College is for the achievements of our mathematicians and scientists, we welcome creativity of all kinds, and the presence of practising artists amongst us has been inspiring – never more so than at this juncture of history. It will be intriguing to hear these two eminent writers in conversation about how the world has changed, and hasn’t changed, and should change.

Register for the 15 October webinar – the webinar link will be sent out on Thursday.

You can read more about Black History Month at Trinity.

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