Sun | May 19, 2019

Jean Breeze a Doctor of Letters - Poet receives honorary degree from University of Leicester

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Dr Jean Breeze smiles after signing at the University of Leicester, England, during the ceremony at which she received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree last Thursday.
Dr Jean Breeze (seated, second left) with faculty members of the University of Leicester, England, last Thursday when she received a honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt).

In her acceptance speech for a Doctorate of Letters (D Litt) from the University of Leicester last Thursday, poet Jean 'Binta' Breeze connected the ceremony with a long history of performance.

"I just had to say it has been a lifetime of entering and exiting stages, but entering this stage in the robes and the hat was overwhelming," Breeze told The Gleaner.

The woman whose books include Third World Girl (2011), Song Lines (1997) and Riddym Ravings and Other Poems (1988), with the 1987 Riddym Ravings an early album, was accompanied at the ceremony by her son Gareth (a standout cricketer) and daughter Caribe.

She described Leicester in England's East Midlands as somewhere which "became my second home, after Sandy Bay (in Hanover, Jamaica)".

Words brought Breeze to Leicester. "I had just got a fellowship to write my first novel (The Fifth Figure).


Creative hub


I wanted somewhere quiet to go and one of my friends said come to Leicester," she said. She did , ... "and I stayed and did another three or four books."

Breeze described Leicester as "49 per cent white and 51 per cent ethnic minorities. It is really mixed."

The University of Leicester's website says Breeze " ... was appointed an honorary Creative Writing Fellow in 2011 and has appeared at events the University regularly." Breeze, who previously received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), said in Leicester "I was very much a part of the community."


Close connection


As for the University of Leicester, Breeze noted that "in my years of working closely with the university, it was obvious they not an institution of academic isolation. I found them to be close connected to the community they are in."

Anne Fine, author of the book Madame Doubtfire which was made into the movie Mrs Doubtfire, starring the late Robin Williams, was also conferred with a D Litt by the university.