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Poet Benjamin Zephaniah’s visit to namesake building at Harrow College

Poet, writer and campaigner Benjamin Zephaniah brought his dub magic to Harrow College’s newly refurbished Zephaniah building during a visit on Friday.

Students and staff gave the visiting dub (reggae) poet a very warm welcome when he came along to the learning centre named after him at the Harrow Weald campus.

Zephaniah, who was born and brought up in Birmingham, England, shot to fame with his unique and accessible work which is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls ‘street politics’.

Among the students he met during the visit to Harrow College were a group with learning difficulties and disabilities who had been learning about his work and who shared their own writing with him, showing how they had been inspired by his vibrant, evocative poems.

As well as meeting students and happily agreeing to their requests for photos, he also talked about his life and work and the importance of education. Zephaniah told students and staff he had left school at the age of 13 unable to read or write, learning literacy in adult education classes, where it was also discovered that he was severely dyslexic.

He said: “Education can liberate us all and for that reason it is extremely important. Having my name on this building is more than just a name on a building – I am now associated with you guys, you are friends and family, and I am really proud to be bringing my name here.”

Zephaniah’s informal visit followed the official opening of the building at the end of last year with Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills (Greater London Authority) and Cllr Kareema Marikar, Mayor of Harrow.

Pat Carvalho, Principal of Harrow College and Deputy CEO of HCUC (Harrow College Uxbridge College, the merged college group), pictured with Zephaniah, said: “It was a real privilege to have the chance to welcome Benjamin Zephaniah to our new building following its official opening last year. He was obviously a real hit and I feel sure his name and work will continue to inspire students and staff alike for many years to come. The Zephaniah building is a great asset for Harrow College. Thanks to generous funding of £2.5 million from the Mayor of London’s Skills for Londoners Capital Fund – through the LEAP (Local Economic Action Partnership) and HM Government – this will help us provide the best possible facilities to educate and support our students for many years to come.”

The building provides students with high quality facilities and a modern spacious learning environment in which they can develop their skills and knowledge. The ground floor is designed especially to support students with learning difficulties and disabilities, featuring IT facilities, an open social space, hygiene and medication rooms, and the first floor is dedicated to the new college library and IT classrooms.

Zephaniah, a writer, presenter, actor, recording artist and campaigner, writes poetry and books for young people and adults, is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Brunel University London, and has 16 honorary doctorates. He was included in The Times’ list of 50 greatest post war writers, and in a BBC national poll voted the nation’s third favourite poet of all time, the only living writer in a top ten which also included William Blake, TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas and WB Yeats.

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