Tributes were paid yesterday to Birmingham's former Poet Laureate Roi Kwabena, who has died aged 51after a battle with lung cancer.

The poet, musician, historian and politician was the city's sixth Laureate when he was appointed to the role in 2001.

Friends and colleagues praised his energy and dedication to the community.

Community librarian Faydene Gillings-Grant worked with Kwabena in the years he spent visiting and working in Birmingham.

She said: "We first met back when he became the poet laureate back in 2001, when we first started working together.

"He was what they described as an activist for poetry and he really tried to get poetry to seem like something natural to us.

"He did a lot of work with children and young people and he had a very 'in your face' character, getting shy people doing poetry and things they wouldn't normally do. It was quite infectious.

"Anything that I ever saw him participate in he was very much passionate about.

"I remember in 2003 there was a Jamaican folk choir that came to Birmingham, and he wanted them to perform at the Drum for everyone so badly that he literally paid for it out of his pocket because he knew what they could do and what they could offer.

"I suppose everybody who met him would have a story to tell about him because of the relationships he built up."

Kwabena was born and brought up in Trinidad, where he later served as a senator. He came to Britain in 1985, living in Birmingham among other places.

He was named Birmingham's Poet Laureate in 2001, producing dozens of poems for the city and its people.

A statement from Birmingham City Council said: "Roi had a tremendous and positive impact both on individuals and on organisations lucky enough to encounter him.

"He offered endless encouragement and inspiration to try things, to do things and to believe in the value of doing those things.

"Everywhere you go you meet people who acknowledge that they would not have started writing or performing without a nudge from Roi."

The poet was an active campaigner for more recognition for black history, a subject he studied closely. He did a lot of research into the Kush civilisation in Africa, and into ancient Nubian history.

He was also one of the main leaders behind the movement which led to the introduction of Black History Month in Birmingham. "He was very much level headed and very talented and he was one of those people who made you feel proud of your history," said Ms Gillings-Grant.

"He never let anything get him down - he was very confident and he shared that confidence with you."