Performance poet and YA author Alex Wheatle, aka The Brixton Bard, launched Generation #MCRTakeover this week at a packed schools events at Z-arts as part of the Manchester Children’s Book Festival.
Alex enthralled local school children with stories of his troubled upbringing. Taken into care at the age of three, Alex suffered dreadful abuse in a children’s home and was particularly traumatised when his best friend was suddenly taken from the home by social workers.
As a result of the traumas and bullying he suffered, Alex went on to have huge behavioural difficulties and was moved around between lots of different homes and schools.
Eventually Alex ended up in a home in Brixton, his birthplace, where he began working as a lookout for a notorious crime lord. After becoming involved in the 1981 Brixton riots, he ended up serving ten months in prison and it was here that Alex discovered a love of reading and began to turn his life around. He said, “After that, I didn’t get into any trouble. I just read and read.”
After he was released, Alex began to experiment with writing his own song lyrics and poems. He began to perform under the pseudonym, Yardman Irie, and treated the library audience to a rendition of his song Uprising. It was only when he again met the young friend he had lost at the children’s home that Alex began to consider writing about his life. He said, “My friend said, ‘Alex, man, our lives have been a joke. Maybe you should write a book about it.’ So I did.” This led to the publication of Alex’s first novel, Brixton Rock and Alex eventually being awarded an MBE for his services to literature.
After telling his story, Alex signed books and chatted with children.
Alex was one of the most inspiring speakers at our 2015 festival, and we are delighted to welcome him back to Manchester for Generation #MCRTakeover. Alex will be joined by Wordsmith poets and will be working in a number of schools, to prepare them for the generation Manchester Wordsmith Showcase on Saturday 2nd July. Alex and Chris will be sharing the mic with local community – Anybody can put themselves forward and get involved!