WRITER Professor Benjamin Zephaniah has died at the age of 65, his family have announced.

The dub poet, known for his works about refugees and healthy eating and who also appeared in hit BBC show Peaky Blinders as Jeremiah Jesus, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour shortly before his death.

His agent confirmed his death to the PA news agency.

He has regularly appeared at festivals in Worcestershire including Malvern Festival of Ideas in March this year, Bewdley Festival and Ledbury Poetry Festival.

He was also Patron of Acorns Children's Hospice which has a hospice in Bath Road, Worcester.

Zephaniah’s family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness and regret that we announced the death of our beloved husband, son and brother in the early hours of this morning 7th December 2023.

“Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago.

“Benjamin’s wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed.

“We shared him with the world and we know many will be shocked and saddened by this news.

“Benjamin was a true pioneer and innovator, he gave the world so much. Through an amazing career including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television, and radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy.

“Thank you for the love you have shown Professor Benjamin Zephaniah.”

The Birmingham-born poet was nominated for autobiography of the year at the National Book Awards for his work, The Life And Rhymes Of Benjamin Zephaniah, and it was also shortlisted for the Costa Book Award in 2018.

He was kicked out of school at the age of 13, unable to read or write and had dyslexia.

In his 20s he travelled to London where his first book Pen Rhythm was published by Page One Book.

His first writings used dub poetry, a Jamaica style of work that has evolved into the music genre of the same name, and he would also perform with the group The Benjamin Zephaniah Band.

Zephaniah, who rejected an OBE in 2003 due to the association of such an honour with the British Empire and its history of slavery, was often outspoken on racial abuse and education.

The Black Writers’ Guild, of which Zephaniah was a founding member, said it is in “mourning at the loss of a deeply valued friend and a titan of British literature”.

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, the group also wrote: “Benjamin was a man of integrity and an example of how to live your values.

“His life was a testimony to the transformational power of reading and the importance of craft.”

During his music career, Zephaniah worked with Irish singer Sinead O’Connor on Empire and British musician Howard Jones and drummer Trevor Morais on his album Naked.

As a children’s poet, he wrote Talking Turkeys, We Sang Across The Sea: The Empire Windrush And Me and Nature Trail.