‘I wish I had something like this when I was growing up.’: Benjamin Zephaniah on Storyhouse

Poet, actor, activist, author, broadcaster and Storyhouse poet-in-residence, Benjamin Zephaniah writes about Storyhouse:

I’m just a street poet’, I always tell people that, and it’s true. I started performing my poetry on the streets of Birmingham, and then on the ‘underground’ reggae scene all over Britain. These were the only places where I could perform. Some of the performance spaces and theatres that I knew of were big, old, imposing places, that seemed alien to us working class artists who were obsessed with expressing ourselves, and speaking about our lives. Which is why when I first walked into Storyhouse, the first thing I said to the Sky TV producer who was with me, ‘I wish I had something like this near me when I was growing up.’ I said this because although I know nothing about architecture or design, I could feel that this building had been designed with people in mind. All kinds of people, for all kinds of arts. So, I knew straight away that Storyhouse was my kind of place.

More importantly there are many things that make Storyhouse unique. Since branching out and performing in buildings with roofs, and places that were not seen as underground, I have spent my life performing in venues all over the country, and they all have something going for them, but Storyhouse just seems to have so much going for it…

The central location, the big library, the kids library, film, theatre, dance, food, comedy, conversation meet-ups, digital meet-ups, and more, but most importantly Storyhouse has a great group of passionate staff and volunteers. Now when I walk into the building I am filled with pride when I see my poems decorating the walls. From street poet, to poet in residence at Storyhouse, and it gets better.

I’ll be appearing with Julian Clary, Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt at the WayWord Festival for children this October half term. Storyhouse will also be staging the Chester Literature Festival, and in the process showcasing the importance of libraries. Who knows where I would be without libraries. Back in the day when I couldn’t afford books, and I had nowhere to read, I was always welcomed in libraries. Now, when cities, towns, and villages are losing their libraries, the Storyhouse library is thriving. 

So, people hear me, make the most of this wonderful venue! I haven’t even mentioned the cinema, plays, and The Snow Queen that’s happening later in the year. In times like these when money is tight there are even free activities for you to join in with. How lucky are you, and how lucky am I, how lucky are we to be a part of the Storyhouse family. A family who art together, are together. See you soon.

Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah’s poems are emblazoned throughout Storyhouse – drop in and explore!

Benjamin Zephaniah will appear at WayWord Festival for kids this October half-term in a unique event, interviewed by schoolchildren. Find out more and book tickets.