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Novelist Bob Boyton, comic John Hegley and poet Dzifa Benson’s gig for Camden Cold Weather Shelter

12:00 29 January 2013

Novelist  Bob Boyton

Novelist Bob Boyton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

He’s a “lost preacher”, a “grammar school boy gone bad” and “the worst labourer Camden has ever seen”.

He’s a “lost preacher”, a “grammar school boy gone bad” and “the worst labourer Camden has ever seen”.

Bob Boyton’s story is one of twists and turns, taking him from an upbringing in Southend to trade unions in Thatcher’s Britain to comedy, writing and a friendship with comedian and political activist Mark Thomas.

The common thread in this gruff comedian’s life has been his dedication to politics and homeless campaigning - demonstrated in the charity event he will host on January 31 called A Bookish Evening.

When Mr Boyton came to London in the 1970s, he was seeking “streets paved with adventure”.

Instead he found a city torn apart by union struggles, homelessness and anger.

Now, with fellow writers, poet Laureate John Hegley and performance poet Dzifa Benson, the 62-year-old author, who lives in College Place, Camden Town, will raise money and awareness for the Camden Cold Weather Shelter.

The charity provides shelter, food and clothing for more than 100 homeless people over the winter and Mr Boyton is passionate about their work.

He said: “In a recession it’s the most vulnerable people who are hit first and they’re the people who end up on the street.

“Public services are being slashed and there’s no safety net any more.

“The Cold Weather Shelter is the first rung of people climbing back to safety.”

Mr Boyton doesn’t mince his words.

As a writer who cut his teeth squatting in Camden, amid vociferous union anger, he has powerful convictions and a desire to change things.

His own book, Bomber Jackson Does Some, was released last year, and at the event the 62-year-old author will read extracts from the story, which follows a homeless ex-boxer in search of redemption.

Mr Boyton calls himself a “lazy writer” but his deadpan self-deprecation hides a novel full of the painful struggles facing those in Camden’s Cold Weather Shelter.

“I wanted to work with a character and talk about the obstacles facing him as he tries to lead a life away from drink, homelessness and prison,” said Mr Boyton.

He is most enthusiastic about watching his fellow authors, including celebrated comic John Hegley, with whom he shared the London comedy circuit in the 1980s.

Together, the group promise to bring some of Mr Boyton’s rebel rousing attitude to Kentish Town Library.

* A Bookish Evening will be held at the library in Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town at 7.15pm on January 31. Entrance is free with a suggested £5 donation.

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