The family of much-missed Birmingham poet Benjamin Zephaniah joined children, parents and staff at his old school to plant a tree in his memory, in a joyous celebration of his life.

Pupils and staff at Deykin Avenue Junior and Infant School, in Witton, gathered outside for the tree-planting ceremony and also performed some of his poems and enjoyed African drumming.

Benjamin’s brother Tippa performs one of his poems for the children at Deykin Avenue in Witton.

Benjamin, who passed away last year, was a celebrated poet, musician and actor from Handsworth. His writings, inspired by his own lived experiences and Jamaican heritage, moved people around the globe.

The poet’s siblings Millicent, Joyce, Tippa and Mark – who also attended Deykin Avenue, which recently joined the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership – shared memories about Benjamin and their time at the school.

Pupils enjoyed African drumming to honour the memory of the famous Brummie poet.

Along with Benjamin’s nephew Daniel and African drummer Asha Barnes, they entertained children with poems, music and inspirational words about how they could also attain their dreams.

Joyce, Benjamin’s sister, said they all had very fond memories of their time at Deykin Avenue.

“It was quite daunting coming back here with so many emotions going around – but they were all good emotions. It was an amazing afternoon,” she said.

Brother Mark said: “It was absolutely brilliant. I’m a bit emotional, coming back here. It was great to celebrate Benjamin and see the love everyone has for him.”

Before the tree planting, the celebration had paid homage to Benjamin’s infectious, fun style of poetry.

Benjamin’s brother Tippa gave energetic performances of two of his poems, before pupils took centre stage to recite works they had practiced for the occasion – Nature Trail, Talking Turkeys and We Refugees.

Benjamin’s family are proud of the impact he has had on children in the local community.

Then it was over to family friend Asha to drum up some beats for the youngsters, who got to try their hand at drumming too.

Asha said: “The drumming, music and poetry all worked together as one thing, just as Benjamin’s life and work was always connected to people.”

Finally, Benjamin’s family planted a tree in his memory in the school’s grounds, helped by some of the children.

Children were fascinated to learn about and perform Benjamin’s work.

Afterwards, Tippa said: “Performing in front of the kids was brilliant. I could see myself in them when I was little, it was wonderful. All the kids knew who Benjamin was and had read some of his work. Some of them even said they were sad they never got to meet him.

“But every time they visit this tree, they can imagine that they’re with him.”

Millicent added: “What a beautiful afternoon we had. The school made us feel so welcome, the children were fantastic. Benjamin would’ve loved it.”

Headteacher of Deykin Avenue, Sharon Brewer, said: “It’s been a lovely afternoon. The children were very engaging and eager to learn about such an important figure in local culture.

“I hope the family have enjoyed it, and that they’ve seen how important Benjamin was and still is to the community.”

You can watch more of the fun from the June 10 event by visiting the ATLP’s YouTube channel here: Benjamin Zephaniah’s family visit ATLP’s Deykin Avenue Junior & Infant School (

Main picture: Jenny Maskell, Primary Strategic Lead at ATLP, drummer Asha Barnes and Deykin Avenue Headteacher Sharon Brewer with Benjamin Zephaniah’s brothers Mark and Tippa, sisters Joyce and Millicent and nephew Daniel.