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Lemn Sissay

Festival of Ideas


Monday 6 May 2019
11am — 12pm

This event has now ended

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Lemn Sissay

Copyright Hamish Brown

Poet, playwright, broadcaster and educator Lemn Sissay MBE talks to writer and critic Alex Clark about how poetry saved his life and why language has the power to transform society.

Much of Sissay’s work focuses on his early childhood with foster parents, his teenage years in children’s homes and subsequent search for his birth mother. In this conversation he talks about how writing helped him survive his childhood, about being a role model for young black writers and why he believes passionately in fighting for reform of the British care system.

Lemn Sissay self-published his first collection of poems when he was just 17. He is now the author of several poetry collections, plays and programmes for radio and TV. His play Something Dark is on the national curriculum, he adapted Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy for the theatre, and his own life has been the subject of programmes on both radio and television. His Landmark Poems can be found in public spaces from The Royal Festival Hall in London to The British Council Offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was the first poet commissioned to write for the London Olympics and was the official poet for the FA Cup 2015.

He was awarded an MBE for his services to literature in 2010 and was made Chancellor of Manchester University in 2015. He is also a trustee of the Foundling Museum and Manchester International Festival. In 2017 he launched a scheme to encourage young black lawyers in Ethiopia and Manchester. He set up the first black writers’ workshop, Culture World and established writers’ workshops for care leavers.

This talk will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Lemn Sissay will be signing books in the Burlington Gardens entrance hall, outside Pace Gallery, after the event.

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

Monday 6 May 2019

11am — 12pm

The Benjamin West Lecture Theatre, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts

£15, £9