Distinguished literary figures from Leicester to be honoured

Posted by ap507 at Jan 16, 2017 10:51 AM |
Local poet and Madame Doubtfire author to receive honorary degrees from University of Leicester on 19 and 20 January

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 16 January 2017

Images of Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze and Anne Fine are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/adu6h7if2rvao90/AADgi2SedBPjCmiVmgkIHJIGa?dl=0

Two of Leicester’s best loved and most enduring literary figures are to be honoured by the University of Leicester at its graduation ceremonies this month.

The University will honour the achievements of the award-winning children’s writer Anne Fine OBE, whose book Madame Doubtfire was filmed as Mrs Doubtfire starring Robin Williams, and poet Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze MBE who has been a an honorary Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Leicester since 2011. Both have contributed to the University’s increasingly popular Literary Leicester Festival.

The University will award honorary degrees to the two distinguished personalities alongside graduating students of the University of Leicester at De Montfort Hall on 19 January and 20 January.

Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the 3pm ceremony on Thursday 19 January. She was appointed an honorary Creative Writing Fellow in 2011 and has appeared at events the University regularly. She is the author of eight books of poems and stories and has been described as a ‘one-woman festival’. Born in Jamaica, she now lives in County Durham.

Anne Fine will be conferred an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the 11am ceremony on Friday 20 January. Born in Leicester, she was Children’s Laureate from 2001 to 2003 and has won numerous literary prizes, including the Guardian Award, the Carnegie Medal (twice) and the Whitbread (now Costa) Award (twice), and she was also twice Children's Author of the Year.

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “We are delighted to be able to confer honorary doctorates on two of Leicester’s favourite writers: Anne Fine, and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze.

“Before Christmas, we were honoured to host Patricia Cornwell – not just a global best-selling author, but one of the few contemporary writers to have changed a field of writing – crime fiction –beyond recognition. In conferring an honorary doctorate on Anne Fine we recognise an equivalent figure in her area of children’s fiction – and with the 50 books, Children’s Laureateship, two Carnegie Medals, Guardian Prize, Smarties Prize, Whitbread Awards, Children’s Author of the Year and other awards to show it.

“The honorary doctorate conferred on Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze is a recognition not just of one of our most eminent poets, but the charismatic ‘godmother’ both of dub poetry and of poetry as performance art. In the words of fellow poet Bernardine Evaristo, Breeze brings to poetry not just an unmatched “warmth, humour and charisma” but a delivery that is “rhapsodic, incantatory, hypnotic and always entertaining”.

“With the honorary degrees conferred on Anne and Jean, the University starts out on a year of events and festivals designed to showcase Leicester’s amazing literary heritage. From the 50th anniversary of the death of playwright Joe Orton to a milestone birthday for popular former resident (and sometime writer) Adrian Mole; the University will be marking a series of big dates in Leicester’s written history – and we look forward to welcoming people from across the city to the celebrations.”

Professor Martin Stannard, Director of the Literary Leicester festival, said: “It is fantastic and highly appropriate that two literary figures, familiar to many people in Leicester from their appearances at Literary Leicester, are to be honoured in the festival’s tenth year.

“Literary Leicester is unique among Britain's literary festivals in that it is free, with many of its events taking place in the evening, allowing people to attend after work. Distinctly democratic and inclusive, it reaches out broadly to the local community with events all over the city.

“Children's writing has always been a focus and more recently we have also showcased the work of Black and Asian writers. Literary Leicester has grown exponentially from its initiation, and now is clearly on the national map of major cultural events.”


Honorand biographies and quotes:

Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze – Doctor of Letters – 19 January, 3pm


JEAN ‘BINTA’ BREEZE was born in 1956 in Patty Hill, Hanover, Jamaica. A graduate of Rusea’s High School, she enrolled at the Jamaica School of Drama in 1978, and between 1979 and 1981 lived as a Rastafarian in the Clarendon hills. She has worked with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission as a cultural organizer in Westmoreland and, later, as a national coordinator for the literary arts.

She first visited London to take part in the International Book Fair of Radical and Third World Books, on the invitation of Linton Kwesi Johnson.  She took part in a number of events and became well known for her searing poetry and her mixing of the political and the personal.  In 1987 she earned a certificate in education at Garnett College, London.

From that first visit, Breeze soon made England her home and currently lives in both Jamaica and England doing a mixture of writing, performing and mentoring.

She is the author of eight books of poems and stories, including Riddim Ravings and other poems, On the Edge of An Island, The Fifth Figure and Third World Girl: Selected Poems. This year to mark her 60th birthday, The Verandah Poems, her latest collection was published by Bloodaxe books and she has been touring England with literature producers Renaissance One for much of the year giving readings from the book and running masterclasses. Her recordings include Riddim Ravings, Tracks and Riding on de Riddim.

A very powerful performer, she has been called a ‘one-woman festival’. She has also become well known for her mastery of, and use of, the ‘Dub’ form as well as other forms of poetry.  Her words carry powerful political and personal messages, and audiences relate to and are inspired by her work. She has presented her work throughout the world, including tours of the Caribbean, North America, Europe, South East Asia and Africa.

Living in Leicester for over a decade, she did community work with the city and elsewhere in the Midlands and she has been a Patron of the Showcase Smoothie and Soft Touch Arts, both social and charitable initiatives which support a range of people with lived experience of schizophrenia and mental illness. She is an honorary Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Leicester’s School of English. She was awarded an M.B.E. in 2012 for Services to Literature.

Press comment: “I am delighted with this award by the University of Leicester. It is the culmination of years of work and being recognised by the Leicester community is a special gift to me.”

Anne Fine – Doctor of Letters – 20 January, 11am


Anne Fine is a children’s writer.  She was born in Leicester, attended Northampton High School and studied Politics and History at the University of Warwick. She then moved to Oxford, where she worked as an Information Officer for Oxfam, before publishing her first children's book, The Summer House Loon, in 1978.  She has written more than fifty books for children, including Madame Doubtfire (which was turned into the film Mrs Doubtfire), Goggle-Eyes, The Diary of a Killer Cat, Ivan the Terrible and Flour Babies. Her books for adults include The Killjoy, In Cold Domain and Taking the Devil’s Advice. She was Children’s Laureate from 2001 to 2003, and in this role she toured and campaigned to promote the importance of children's reading and public libraries. She compiled three poetry anthologies (A Shame to Miss, volumes 1, 2 and 3) and launched the My Home Library scheme, encouraging children to build their own libraries at home; more than 100 artists and cartoonists provided over 150 original bookplate designs for this project and there have been an estimated 1.8 million downloads of these since the project's launch in 2002. She has won numerous literary prizes, including the Guardian Award, the Carnegie Medal (twice) and the Whitbread (now Costa) Award (twice), and she was also twice Children's Author of the Year.  Her work is translated into over forty languages. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and she was awarded an OBE in 2003 for services to children’s literature.

Press comment: “I was born in Leicester. Both sets of grandparents lived there all their lives. My parents were raised and educated in its schools, and I spent a good deal of time in the city all through my childhood. It’s a place I admire hugely for its civic achievements, and I am delighted and honoured to be offered this university degree.”

Share this page: