Levi Tafari – Writer, poet, performer and “Urban Griot”
Levi Tafari was born and raised in Toxteth by his Jamaican parents. He attended catering college, where he studied classical French cuisine and graduated with distinction. In the early 1980s, while working as a caterer, he started attending the Liverpool 8 Writers Workshop and decided to become a performance poet. Tafari was a firm member of the Rastafarian movement and although his early performances were in that community, he saw it as his duty to reach a wider audience and began performing overseas.
Tafari often runs creative writing workshops at schools, colleges, universities and prisons. Most recently he has applied his work to working with the British Council, undertaking tours to the Czech Republic, Jordan, Portugal, Germany and Singapore.
He was Writer in Residence at Charles University in Prague and has also appeared in many television programmes including Blue Peter and Grange Hill. He also made a film about Rastafarianism for BBC television’s Everyman program.
I attended Granby Junior Mixed and Infant School and Arundel Comprehensive School which is now a Tesco.
My favourite teacher:
I had two really, John Rennard who took me for PE, he was a great guy who you could talk to and have a good laugh with and Peter Casey my English teacher.
Favourite subject at school:
I was really into art and PE as I played in the school basketball team. Cookery was also high on my agenda as I was a chef for five years.
Were you streetwise or a bit of a geek?
Definitely streetwise – my first years at secondary school I messed around a bit much to my parents annoyance but that soon changed at the end of my school years.
My favourite childhood band/singer:
There are so many; I loved the Jackson Five, James Brown and Bob Marley, anything with a bit of funk! I have two favourite songs, Redemption Song by Bob Marley and Imagine by John Lennon, these two I like to think sum me up as a person.
My favourite extra-curricular activity:
My English teacher Peter Casey used to write plays and we – the students – loved to act them out. He wrote one called the ‘Grimbarian’ and I was a wizard. The moral of the story being about people working together to overcome the ‘Grimbarian’. I was also very much into my sports, basketball, football and athletics.
Do you remember your first school crush?
Yes, Carol Skeet, she always said she liked me but thought I was a bit immature.
My favourite book:
I have many being a writer but I love ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou and ‘The Isis Papers; The Keys to the Colors’ by Frances Cress Welsing – a powerful book which made me understand the dynamics of racism, she just explains it so well.
I didn’t like them at all, they were just plain and horrible, with my parents being from Jamaica we were used to spices and such, not plastic liver.
My ambitions at school:
I always wanted to travel and see the world. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do until my careers teacher suggested cookery, it was my passport to travel.