Bradford’s poet laureate Gerard Benson has died soon after making a recording of his own works.
The 83-year-old had recently returned from the BBC in London where he had made recordings for the world-famous on-line Poetry Archive. Originally from London, Mr Benson was appointed Bradford’s poet laureate in 2008.
He had settled in the city in 1989 with his writer artist wife Cathy and the couple lived in Manningham.
Still writing until his death, Mr Benson had been due to perform at a Poetry In the City event in Bradford this summer as part of Ilkley Literature Festival’s fringe celebrations. His Memoir of A Jobbing Poet will be published later this year and there are plans to print a book dedicated to his Bradford poems.
Although his work took him across the globe from the US to Egypt and Norway to Ireland, he had a great sense of belonging to Bradford where he had worked in schools helping children write on the themes of peace.
He was greatly honoured to be Bradford’s poet laureate, said his widow, who added: “He loved the multicultural ambience of Bradford. He loved the City Hall and the mirror pool, which he extolled to others who had never seen it, suggesting they should visit on a summer’s day.”
The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain said: “Gerard Benson was Bradford’s first and only Poet Laureate and he will be sadly missed.
“Since being appointed in 2008 he has done lots of work on behalf of the Bradford district, including working with children in libraries and schools to help them get the most out of poetry.
“He also contributed to the civic life of the district by attending many events including one of his favourite ones – the Lord Mayor’s Curry Club.
“He wrote verses for major events such as Holocaust Memorial Day, the Bradford City fire disaster memorial services, civic services and the Lord Mayor’s Installation service.”
The Lord Mayor added: “Gerard was very proud to wear his Bradford Poet Laureate badge and to represent the district, despite originating from the south of England and being celebrated as a nationally-recognised poet.”
A Quaker, a poet and a teacher, Mr Benson had served his country as an intelligence decoder in Britain and had worked as an actor treading the boards in may places including Bradford’s own Alhambra Theatre.
In London he was a prime mover of the Poems on the Underground scheme that started 27 years ago.
Friends and family will say their own words of farewell at his funeral on Monday, May 12, at Nab Wood Crematorium, Shipley.