Professor Benjamin Zephaniah’s Life & Rhymes, a showcase of some of Britain’s finest poets, will face off against Strictly Come Dancing and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway at this year’s BAFTAs.
Nominated in the Entertainment Programme category, the four-part Sky Arts series – which featured Brunelians both in front of and behind the camera – saw some of the country’s best spoken word performers tackle a number of challenging topics, including men's mental health, COVID-provoked racism and the NHS.
Filmed during lockdown in London’s Battersea Park, the show was the first of its kind to be aired in the UK.
“Since the news broke people have been introducing me as, 'The BAFTA nominated poet.' But the truth is, it's not all about me,” said Prof Zephaniah, who balances his academic and teaching position as Professor of Creative Writing with a diverse poetry, music and acting career.
“There's a whole team behind the programme, and I'm so proud of the fact that a few people involved in the show have Brunel connections. Most notable Isaac Nartey, who is the Associate Producer, but we have also had Brunel graduate performers and helpers who were involved with the show. Under our breath we were calling it The Brunel Poetry Show. At one point we were even thinking of filming the show at Brunel. Now that would have been cool.”
Prof Zephaniah said he was ‘probably the last person to know’ about the show’s nomination, and despite getting a text message making him aware of the nod, it didn’t sink in until messages of congratulations started flooding in from ‘all over the world.’
“People keep telling me I shouldn’t say this, but I will. I think that we don't stand a great chance of winning being up against Ant and Dec, Strictly Come Dancing, and The Masked Singer, but there is a real sense of pride and happiness from people everywhere, because a spoken word and poetry show has made the nominations,” said Prof Zephaniah.
“It's great for us who think TV is full of glitter, high tech, and competitions, and just want to hear people from all walks of life, speaking their truth. The programme is very original and has just not been done before on TV. It has to be said. We've made history.”
Winners will be announced at a ceremony hosted by actor Richard Ayoade on 6 June 2021.
Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
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