HomeStandard PeopleFare thee well, Paul Brickhill

Fare thee well, Paul Brickhill

“Comrade Brickhill” as he was often referred to as, lost the battle to cancer on October 3 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Prudence Muganiwah/Calabash media

Born in 1958 and raised in Harare during the period in which the liberation war was intensifying, Paul refused to serve in the Rhodesian army and escaped from Zimbabwe to join the liberation struggle in 1976.

His fearlessness towards the achievement of a revolution was showcased when he joined ZAPU while in exile and subsequently joined his brother Jeremy working as a volunteer in ZIPRA.

Always an advocate for the promotion of the arts and culture, Paul embarked on his life-long career soon after independence by founding the country’s first progressive bookshop – Grassroots Books and its sister publishing company, Anvil Press.

Paul, elected Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association in 1991, worked tirelessly with his first wife, Pat to develop Zimbabwean publishing and book-selling.

For the following decade, Paul served on the Board of the Zimbabwean International Book and was amongst the team which co-founded the African Publishers Network (APNET) and the Pan-African Booksellers Association.

Paul was also a musician, establishing bands in the 1980’s such as Luck Street Blues and the famed Solidarity Band, which featured young musicians who eventually became the Bhundu Boys. He played the saxophone all over the country, mostly in the poorer working class township pubs.

1997 saw Paul further developing Grassroots Books into a multi-dimensional artistic idea which covered all aspects of art such as music, theatre, film, literature, poetry, art and craft, and consequently the world famous Book Café was launched.

The Book Café has over the years nurtured and promoted arts and culture under Brickhill’s leadership; hosting shows and launching budding artists.

The venue became a much-loved platform saluted by artists from all over. It boasts of the National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Arts Service’ awarded in 2013 by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.

The brains behind it, Paul, also received a NAMA Award for “service to the arts” and in 2012 he was awarded a Prince Klaus Award by the Government of the Netherlands in recognition of his role in establishing the Book Café and his own life-long commitment to promoting the arts.

In 2012 the Book Café became a laureate of the prestigious 2011 Prince Claus Awards for “its exemplary support of culture and development in Zimbabwe, for the diversity, quality and wide reaching impact of its activities, for stimulating creativity and fostering aspiring young talent, and for its tenacity and commitment in upholding freedom of expression in a difficult context.”

Survived by his brother, fellow war veteran Jeremy, his first wife Pat and his second wife Jennifer, as well as four children; Thomas, Liam, Amy and Declan, Paul was indeed a much loved soul who touched so many people’s lives from different angles.

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