Linton Kwesi Johnson’s work has always been political, vital and necessary, drawing attention to issues like systemic racism, police abuse and National Front attacks, calling for government, institutions and society to be held to account. The legendary reggae poet’s first collection of poetry, Voices of the Living and the Dead, was published in 1974. He has published four volumes of work and in 2002 became only the second living poet and the first black poet to have his work included in Penguin’s Modern Classics series.

Johnson’s debut album Dread Beat An Blood was released in 1978, and since then he has released 14 more albums made with long-time collaborator, dub producer Dennis Bovell. He has been running his own record label, LKJ Records, since 1981, bringing new artists to the attention of wider audiences. Poetry and music are only half of LKJ’s story. 

A lifelong social activist, Johnson was a member of the Black Panthers, and as a member of the Race Today Collective he was a long-time associate of Darcus Howe. He used his platform as poetry editor of Race Today to introduce important ideas and new voices to the British public, including Michael Smith and Oku Onuora. Alongside John La Rose, Johnson was part of the Black Parents Movement and played a pivotal role in the Black People’s Day of Action following the New Cross Massacre in 1981. Join Robin Denselow in conversation with Linton Kwesi Johnson as he reflects on his 50 years of activism.

We Are Lewisham, Lewisham Council and Mayor of London logo

We Are Lewisham is presented by Lewisham Council and the Albany as part of the Mayor’s London Borough of Culture 2022.