THE BRADFORD LITERATURE FESTIVAL 2022 came to an end on Sunday the 3rd of July.

The annual festival is undoubtedly one of the biggest literature festivals in the UK attracting a wide range of people from different parts of the country each year.

I graduated from the University of Lagos in Nigeria nearly 30 years ago and still have great memories of “The Farmished Road” by Ben Okri as one of my favourite literature books of all times.

“The Farmished Road ” also won The Booker prize for fiction in 1991.

The moment I got to learn that the Multi -award winning Nigerian poet and novelist (Mr Ben Okri ) would be delivering an inaugural FREE WORLD LECTURE aimed at celebrating the political power of words to uphold free speech at The Alhambra Theatre in Central Bradford, my mind raced back to my early years of discovering and embracing different forms and heights of poetry and a writer who painted profound pictures in the minds of many of my friends at the time.

Mr Ben Okri delivered an amazing lecture on the last day of THE BRADFORD LITERATURE FESTIVAL 2022

He spoke about the importance of poetry in the world of crisis and a range of themes affecting humanity.

He spoke about the importance of freedom and how freedom has a strong connection with poetry and writers around the world.

It was also a pleasure to buy one of his books “In Arcadia ” and to share a few thoughts with an amazing man who continues to create new legacies in the literary world.

Sunday the 3rd of July 2022 will go down in history not only for meeting a great writer and cultural activist , but a day where I feel even more encouraged to write and to paint life with the stories from my heart


Ben Okri is a poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, aphorist, playwright, and writer of film-scripts. His writing challenges perceptions of reality. He is also a cultural activist.

He was born in Nigeria and came to England as a child. He went to school in London and returned to Nigeria with his parents on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War. The war made a defining impact on his life. He finished his secondary school education and wanted to study physics and become a scientist. But he was deemed too young then for university and that summer he read his way through his father’s library and found his true vocation. He began writing at a very early age. He began with poetry and then published articles and essays about the living conditions of the poor in the slums of Lagos. Then he wrote short stories and eventually what was to become his first novel, ‘Flowers and Shadows.’

In 1978, Ben Okri returned to London. He studied comparative Literature at Essex University. Two years later he published his first novel; and in 1982 came his second novel, ‘The Landscapes Within.’ He went through a brief period of homelessness. In 1986 came ‘Incidents at the Shrine’, a collection of stories that won him prizes and enhanced his reputation. In 1988 a second collection, ‘Stars of the new Curfew,’ cemented his reputation as a powerful new voice. But it was in 1991, with the publication of ‘The Famished Road’ that he attained international stature.

The Famished Road won the Booker Prize that year. It was the first Booker Prize winner to go straight to number one in the paperback bestseller lists. The novel has been highly influential in the decades since its release. When President Clinton went to Africa for the first time, he quoted extensively from The Famished Road. The novel was also the inspiration behind ‘Street Spirit’ by Radiohead. Recently it was one of the novels cited in an episode of American Dad. It has inspired paintings, music, classical music, plays, films, and dances. It has now been re-issued as a Vintage Classic.

‘The Famished Road’ is the first book in The Famished Road Trilogy, which included ‘Songs of Enchantment’ and ‘Infinite Riches.’ Since then there have been many novels, books of poems, collections of essays.

He is also widely known as a poet. He thinks of himself as primarily a poet, and he maintains that his artistic response to life expresses itself most naturally through poetry.  His first book of poems, ‘An African Elegy,’ contains some of his best known poems, including the title poem, which is a set text in schools, and  ‘ To an English friend in Africa.’ His epic poem, ‘Mental Fight,’ has been widely read and embraced. Quotations from it are a regular on the internet. ‘ Wild,’ published in 2012, is perhaps his most diverse and life-affirming volume of poems. His most recent collection of poems, ‘A Fire in my Head,’ to be published in January 2021, contains some of his most famous and highly charged political poems. One of the poems, ‘ Grenfell Tower, June 2017,’ was listened to over 6 million times on the Channel Four Facebook page.

In 2009, he invented a new form called the Stoku, which is a cross between a short story and a haiku. This was first displayed in his book ‘ Tales of Freedom’, now re-titled ‘ The Comic Destiny,’ which featured thirteen stokus. Quotations from his work are popular and have appeared in television series like Criminal Minds.

His essays have also been widely read and influential. ‘ A Way of being Free,’ published in 1997, contains some of his best-loved meditations on the power and magic of storytelling. And ‘ A Time for new Dreams,’ published in 2011, was the titular mascot of Grace Wells Bonner’s exhibition at the Serpentine in 2018. It was also a personal book recommendation by the great artist David Hammons in a New Yorker profile of him in 2019.

Ben Okri has written film scripts and plays. He wrote the text to Peter Kruger’s film ‘N: The Madness of Reason.’  The film won the 2015 Ensor Award for Best Film. He is co-writing, with Peter Kruger, the film script adaptation of his novel, ‘The Age of Magic’. He has also written a play called The Outsider, an adaptation of Camus’s famous novel, which was performed to full houses at The Coronet in September 2018. The play won the 2018 Offies Award for Best Theatre Production. In 2020, his play, ‘Madame Sosostris,’ was performed again to full houses at the Pullof Threatres in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Ben Okri has been a Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was also Visiting Professor of Literature at Leicester University. He is an honorary Fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford.

In 2019 his novel, ‘Astonishing the Gods,’ was selected as one of the BBC’s ‘100 novels that shaped our world.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s