I was very lucky to attend the launch of a new book by Benjamin Zephaniah recently. When I Grow Up aims to break down stereotypes and open children’s minds to the range of roles available to them. It has poems by Zephaniah, along with photos and information about inspirational people in unusual occupations. A number of them attended the event, an amazing maths clown, for example, and the wonderful space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, whom I felt very privileged to meet, along with her lovely young daughter.
It was fabulous to hear Zephaniah. He talked about his childhood, and how he overcame the very low expectations people had of him. Even his mother was somewhat scornful of his ambition from the age of eight to be a poet (perhaps not surprisingly, given that he did not read or write till he was thirteen). Life as a gangster or at best a painter and decorator were seen to be more on the cards. His new book was inspired in large part by his own experiences of being stereotyped and misjudged.
Zephaniah is currently poet in residence at Keats House in Hampstead, which was the perfect venue for the launch.