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Tuesday 10 July 2018

Renowned poet, musician, journalist and author, Linton Kwesi Johnson, has been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by Solent University today (Tuesday 10 July): "It is with humility and gratitude that I accept an honorary doctorate from Solent University."

Linton was born in Chapelton - a small town in the rural parish of Clarendon, Jamaica - and came to London in 1963 to join his mother.  He went on to study sociology at university, graduating in 1973.

In 1974, Race Today published his first poetry collection. Linton's second collection was published in 1975 by Bogle-L'Ouverture and his first LP, released by Virgin in 1978. That year also saw the release of the film Dread Beat An' Blood - a documentary on Johnson's work. 

In 1977 he was awarded a C. Day Lewis Fellowship, and became the writer-in-residence for the London Borough of Lambeth. He went on to work as the Library Resources and Education Officer at the Keskidee Centre, the first home of Black theatre and art.

LKJ, Linton’s own record label, was launched in 1981. He also became interested in journalism in the 1980s, working closely with the Brixton-based Race Today collective. 

His 10-part radio series on Jamaican popular music, From Mento to Lovers Rock, went out on BBC Radio 1 in 1982. From 1985-88 he was a reporter on Channel 4's The Bandung File. He also toured regularly with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band and produced albums by writer Jean Binta Breeze and jazz trumpeter Shake Keane. 

"My passion for poetry came from my involvement in the radical black movement during the 1970s where I discovered literature in which I could locate myself and my own experiences," Linton adds. 

In 2002 Linton became the only second living poet and the first black poet to have his work published in Penguin’s Modern Classics series, under the title Mi Revalueshanary Fren: Selected Poems. 

Linton also shared his top tips with students: "The main challenges I have faced is bringing my poetry to a popular music audience and trying to win people over to poetry. My top tip is to be true to yourself, work hard and enjoy."