Dub Poet Jean 'Binta' Breeze Awarded MBE

08/02/2013 15:09 | Updated 10 April 2013

Jamaica's first female dub poet, who found fame in the UK, has described her delight at being awarded an MBE - despite criticism from a few of her friends.

Jean Breeze has been a leading light in performance poetry after moving to the UK in the 1980s, bringing a distinct Caribbean voice to theatres across the country.

In her poem 'The Garden Path', Breeze sets out her manifesto: "I want to make words/music/move beyond language/into sound."

jeanbreeze Jean Breeze collects her MBE

Speaking after an investiture ceremony hosted by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace, the poet, who is affectionately known as Binta, said: "Obviously I've had a lot of criticism for accepting an award from the British Empire - some of my political friends are not too keen on that - but I myself am delighted, despite the history of empire."

She added that she learned about the honour after she returned to Jamaica last year following a period of illness.

"I had just moved back home to Jamaica and I was in a little fishing village called Sandy Bay, and there's a post office where we have to go to collect our mail because there's no addresses and street names and stuff.

"And I couldn't believe it, I said 'The Palace, why are they writing to me?' - so it was very special."

Breeze's career only took off when she was invited to Britain by Linton Kwesi Johnson, another major force in dub poetry, in which verse is recited against a reggae beat.

Binta, who was listed in the investiture programme under her real name Jean Breese, said: "Coming to England really developed my work. I was invited to teach at Brixton College, which had a lot of West Indian students, so I stayed on and taught for a few years.

"Then I started freelancing around the country, teaching creative writing workshops and performing.

"I'm very much a Third World voice, I speak for the oppressed and the dispossessed. It's a good thing, when you come to a great metropolis, to be able to bring the voice of your people with you so that they're not forgotten."

She went on to have a varied career writing a number of books of poetry and working as a screenwriter, dancer, actor and scriptwriter. Watch her perform some of her poems in the video above.

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