Baroness Floella Benjamin is the latest guest to her share memories and love of language in the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast – produced by staff and students at the University of Chester.
Since its launch this summer, Gyles Brandreth, Chancellor of the University of Chester, and his daughter Aphra have been travelling – virtually – around the Commonwealth meeting poets, performers and people who love poetry and discovering new poems each episode.
Produced by students and staff at the University, the podcast has followed the pair as they explore Rwanda, Cameroon, St Kitts and Nevis, Cyprus, Guyana, Australia, Belize, Kiribati, Seychelles, Maldives and Nigeria!
Guests including Royalty, High Commissioners, and poets – some of whom are honorary graduates of the University of Chester – share their stories and poems, with interviewees to date including Booker Prize-winning author and poet Ben Okri, and the most recent winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Grace Nichols.
Christmas Day will see a special episode with Baroness Floella Benjamin, who was recently awarded the Order of Merit and received a Doctor of Letters award from the University in March this year.
The Trinidadian born actress, presenter, broadcaster and parliamentarian, currently Chairs the Windrush Commemoration Committee. She has written more than 30 books with her memoir Coming To England, now studied in schools.
In this special festive episode, she shares her memories of growing up as a young child in Trinidad before moving to Britain, and the huge culture shock and difficulties that she faced when she arrived. Bringing her energy, joy of singing and passion for inspiring children and young people, she sings traditional Trinidadian folk songs and rhymes from her childhood.
This will be followed in the New Year with another special episode recorded from the Blue Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the young winners from across the Commonwealth of the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition. With special guest appearances from three of the ambassadors of the Royal Commonwealth Society: Geri Horner, Alexandra Burke and Ayesha Dharker.
Recently, a special episode was released on Remembrance Sunday with HRH The Duke of Kent, President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Royal biographer Hugo Vickers. Recorded at York House in London, it features war poems from across the Commonwealth and highlights the incredible work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, a global organisation, which cares for war graves at 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries and which commemorate almost 1.7 million individuals.
Gyles said: “It is such a pleasure to be joined by Baroness Floella Benjamin for this festive episode of the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast. Her inspirational work in children’s television will be etched upon the memories of so many listeners, who will no doubt be fascinated by the retelling of her own childhood both in Trinidad and the UK.”
In 2023 the journey will continue around the Commonwealth, including meeting the Chief Executive of Oxfam talking about Sri Lanka, and the work of Oxfam, New Zealand with their High Commissioner in the UK, and Canada with Canadian Poet Theresa Munoz.