Born in South-West London in 1956, Ben Watson’s parents met at Cambridge University when they were studying Modern Languages (1936-9). To his father’s great joy he managed, unlike his older brothers, to obtain a place at Cambridge. Rather than attributing this success to any innate talent, Watson credits this incredible feat to being sent to a more expensive public school.
Hoping for the counter-cultural milieu his older brothers had enjoyed in the late 60s, Watson was disappointed by his fellow students 1975-7. They were dull, rightwing and disinclined to either intellectual flights or experimental lifestyles. He completed his education by hitch-hiking to Ealing and engaging in Zappology with Danny Houston, from Glasgow (Kirkintilloch), who worked for London Underground and brandished Zappa’s disdain for higher education (“all students are cunts”). However, lectures by the poet J.H. Prynne breathed the subversion Watson had expected from his peers, and Watson became a disciple.
Breaking with his mother’s Communism and Fabianism, Watson became a Trotskyist and SWP activist, putting a further strain on his relationship with Cambridge Poetry. Watson lives in Somers Town, London, with Esther Leslie, and two children, Iris and Mordecai.