Askew Road librarian and radio wizard Vernal Wright invites you to enjoy his new book of poetry. Praveena Pakium sat down with the local legend to ask what made him turn his hand to poetry.
Vernal Wright is something of a legend in Askew Road.
Now, the 61-year-old local librarian, radio presenter and charity founder has a new feather in his cap after publishing his first book of poems, Just A Dream.
Young Vernal moved from Jamaica when he was just 16 to join his parents in Shepherds Bush. After moving around the UK, he returned to the borough and settled back in West Kensington where he now lives with his wife and four children.
A life-long poet, his work came to the public’s attention through his love of the radio. And after 20 years of working in the library for H&F Council and running his charity Arawak Educational Service, he finally realised his dream by bagging a weekly Sunday morning slot on the Real Jamaica Radio station (RJR 94.1 FM) based in Wembley. He’s now raking in the listeners who religiously tune in for his poetry readings.
He reminisced about an unprompted question he was asked 30 years ago while renewing his passport in Jamaica. ‘What do you want to do in life?’ a woman asked him. As they were taking their passport pictures, Vernal was forced to admit for the first time that his calling in life was to be a radio personality.
His listeners know him as ‘The Wizard’ and he does indeed speak with a magical mystique – and he translates his deep and brooding voice onto the page with his new collection of poetry. “I was forced to write the book,” Vernal says with a laugh.
After two years of ruling the airwaves, he’s drawn such a wide fanbase from his weekly readings that they grew to demand he write down his on-air musings. “They said to me: ‘We want something we can see, we want something we can feel, we want something we can share’. So I took my poems to publishers and now my dream has become a reality.”
Just a Dream is a wonderful assortment of short poems plucked from Vernal’s childhood, seeing him deal with himself, the island England he adjusts to; inciting a profound sense of longing for his past.
But through his charity, Vernal has also proved himself an advocate of the spread of literature. Assisting schools in Jamaica and Grenada to form their own libraries, Vernal believes it is ‘a moral obligation as people for everyone to have access to books’.
The Askew Road librarian is no stranger to the world of books. But when I mention his new book he innocently reveals: “I am still pinching myself, I just cannot grasp that this is real.” Having made such a contribution to so many lives, it was bewildering to hear him say: “I have finally done something and I’ve done something that will last.”