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Benjamin Zephaniah - Multiculturalism or Muscular Liberalism?

Benjamin Zephaniah, the nation's favourite living poet, featured in the May 2012 Writing on the Wall Festival, taking on David Cameron's comments on muscular liberalism. Is multiculturalism the new whipping boy for the economic crisis or has it really failed?  Does it undermine western values? What are western values and what does it mean to be British? The fantastic debate took place at St. George's Hall, Multiculturalism or Muscular Liberalism?

Remote Goat Review in full here

Even on the raised stage of the grandopulent concert room of St. George's Hall, renowned poet Benjamin Zephaniah seems down-to-earth and approachable, transparent yet complex. Flirtatious but feminist, he is an openly heterosexual man who joined Amnesty International's campaign against homophobia in Jamaica; a martial artist who appreciates the fact that the art he follows was created by and for women; an egalitarian who quotes Prince Charles. A man of many parts, then.

Confident yet self-effacing, and virtually without referring to his very few notes, he talks about his apparently thorny topic - 'Multiculturalism or Muscular Liberalism?' - with such simplicity and common sense, you find yourself wondering how people can see things any other way. That he does so without resorting into dogma, rhetoric or Political cant makes his arguments all the more compelling.

Starting with the observation that our Anglo-Saxon heritage is by definition not mono-cultural, and referencing the Jutes, the Celts, and many other tribes beside, his conclusion that to be against multicultural society is to be anti-British is quite simply undeniable.

Nerve Review in full here

St George’s Hall. A Grand Icon in our City. A history of many changes – some prominent, others hidden – civil uprisings, plans laid and written and complex matters of great ingenuity. The proof in the power of one man’s ability.

Benjamin Zephaniah presents all of these, all seeming to overshadow the great hall.

It was a masterful move on the part of Writing on the Wall, hosting this event as part of their programme within a grand design of gilt-edged decorations. The solidity of natural and formed materials, marble pillars, hardwood floors and a huge chandelier, lighting the room and reflecting rainbows. All of this was a fitting arena for the night’s event, a cacophony coming from the crowd as we waited in babbling anticipation

It was rumoured that St George’s Hall had been chosen for its double doors, guaranteeing easy access for Benjamin’s larger than life iambic pentameter. The lights dim and silence falls as the word wizard steps upon the stage. I steady myself – Kevlar earmuffs at the ready.

Multiculturalism was the theme of the evening and Benjamin began with a somewhat brutal story. The first ever racist attack he suffered as an eight-year-old boy:

‘I was walking down the road one day when a man cycled up behind, hitting me on the back of the head with a brick whilst shouting “Go home you black bastard”. After picking myself up off the floor I rushed home, my mother, shocked by the event, cleans me up and is trying to explain about the ‘colour bar’ (her term for racism) I kept asking “what is a bastard?” he said to me “go home” which I understood and have done, he called me “black” which I am, so when my mother explained to me what a bastard was, I couldn't understand why he called me that.’

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