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Britain’s got talent!

Star turn: Benjamin Zephaniah and Jasmine

MANY of you know I am the executive editor of a TV and multi media brand called London 360.

It’s a regular weekly TV show that is on the Community Channel (often, segments are also used where appropriate on our corporate partners’ channels: BBC, ITV, C4, Five and Sky).

Many of the stories covered by the team have led to bigger exposure for Londoners and the success of London 360 has now led to a sister show that focuses on the whole country – and it’s aptly titled UK 360.
The most recent UK 360 shows are presented by poet laureate Benjamin Zephaniah and broadcasting legend Terry Wogan.

Both are open, comfortable and opinionated, and have very sharp minds. Benjamin has managed to make a career in the written word whilst being dyslexic, and Sir Terry is the greatest autocue reader I have ever met (closely followed by Trevor Nelson!)

Speaking of his dyslexia, Benjamin revealed to London 360 reporter Helena Poole: “I’m very dyslexic but I’m also very lucky. I work in the creative arts. I left school at the age of 13 unable to read and write. It’s just about reading and writing and that’s an artificial thing to do.

“Then, when I learned to read and write, I discovered that I was dyslexic. Now I’m a professor at Brunel University. Fortunately, in the creative world you have a lot of understanding people around you. And if I have a problem with words I just invent words and I can get away with it because in my back pocket I have a thing called a poetic licence!

“But I can understand at school how difficult it can be for some young people struggling with dyslexia. But dyslexic people just look at the world differently. And the most important thing that dyslexic people should know is that it is NOT a mark of your intelligence.”

Benjamin could’ve had letters after his name, but he famously rejected his OBE from the Queen many years ago.

“It is almost impossible for me to sit here and tell you why I turned down the OBE,” he said. “At the time I turned it down, I wrote a 2,000-word article in The Guardian and I remember reading the article back and thinking, ‘I could have written much more.’

Basically, I write to connect with people. I don’t write to impress governments, politicians or The Queen. I am Benjamin Zephaniah; I don’t want the Order of the British Empire on my name. I have spent my life fighting against the Empire. Empire means to my family, slavery and brutality. Why would I want to celebrate that? Why would I want to put that on to my name?”

We talked about a variety of other issues, before Benjamin excitedly remembered that he recognised me from this very column.

“I know you – you write that column in The Voice with all those stars,” he said. “I’ve been in The Voice, but usually in the more serious part of the paper.” I reassured him that he would soon see himself in my star area too!

Media moguls: Terry Wogan and Jasmine

Terry Wogan was another charming interviewee. He has been in the industry for years and experienced the media from the ground up, but he is still the humblest of men.

He also had my reporter Emily Jane Brown in stitches as she interviewed him on anything and everything. When asked if he would ever consider going into politics, he retorted: “It would be the last thing in the world I would ever want to do. With the possible exception of Boris Johnson, I haven’t really met a politician that I liked.”

Currently well-known for hosting the BBC’S Children In Need, Terry revealed what he would and wouldn’t do for charity. A sponsored walk: “I can walk, yeah.” Sponsored fancy dress: “No.” Sponsored silence: “I can be silent, but not for very long.”

Would he lay in a bath of cold baked beans for an hour: “Absolutely not!” Would he busk for a day at a London tube station? “Wild horses would not drag me to a London Underground station to busk!”

Finally, we asked him why it was important for him to present UK 360. He might be getting on a bit but he certainly knows what’s what as he responded enthusiastically: “I think UK 360 is the future. I think everything is going to become more and more accessible and people should be able to use the television to get their message across."

“This is a fantastic idea and I really do applaud it. Any time you want me to help, I’ll be delighted’’.
Truly a pair of total legends!

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