Alex Wheatle

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Alex Alphonso Wheatle MBE (3 January 1963) is an award-winning black British novelist of Jamaican heritage, sentenced to a term of imprisonment after the Brixton riots.


Born in 1963 to Jamaican parents,[1] Wheatle spent much of his childhood in a Shirley oaks children's home. At 16 he was a founder member of the Crucial Rocker sound system; his DJ name was Yardman Irie. He wrote lyrics about everyday Brixton life. By 1980 Wheatle was living in a social services hostel in Brixton, South London. He participated in the 1981 Brixton riots and aftermath. While serving his resulting sentence he read authors such as Chester Himes, Richard Wright, C. L. R. James and John Steinbeck. he claims to say that a rastafari was his inmate and he was the one who encouraged Alex to start reading books and care about his education. he features bits of his life in his books such as east of acre lane characters such as yardman Irie and Jah Nelson.

Wheatle has since spoken about the Brixton riots, most prominently in the 2006 BBC programme Battle for Brixton.[2] His early books are based on his life in Brixton as a teenager and his time in social services care.[3]

He received the London Arts Board New Writers Award in 1999 for his debut novel Brixton Rock,[4] which was later adapted for the stage and performed at the Young Vic in July 2010.[5]

He wrote and performed Uprising, a one-man play based on his own life at Tara Arts Studios, Wandsworth, London. In 2011 he took Uprising on tour and performed it at the Writing On The Wall Festival, Liverpool; Oxford Playhouse; Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Ilkley Playhouse and the Albany Theatre, Deptford.

Wheatle lives in London. He is a member of English PEN, and he now visits various institutions facilitating creative writing classes and making speeches. He has also narrated an audio guide to the streets of Brixton.

In the Queen's Birthday Honours 2008, Wheatle was awarded the MBE for services to literature.[6]


  • Brixton Rock (Black Amber, 1999)
  • East of Acre Lane (Fourth Estate, 2001)
  • The Seven Sisters (Fourth Estate, 2002)
  • Checkers with Mark Parham (X-Press, 2003)
  • Island Songs (Allison & Busby, 2005)
  • The Dirty South (Serpents Tail, 2008)
  • Brenton Brown (Arcadia Books, 2011)

Wheatle's books have also been translated into French, Italian, Urdu, Welsh and Samoan.


  1. The Susijn Agency.
  2. Broadcast 10 April 2008 on BBC Two. See "Opposite sides of Brixton's front line", BBC News article
  3. Alex Wheatle - Interview with Myvillage
  4. Alex Wheatle - Biography British Council, Contemporary Writers
  5. Brixton Rock, Talawa Theatre Company. Retrieved 12 August 2010
  6. Birthday Honours List 2008