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Lemn Sissay
Poet, Writer and Speaker

Lemn Sissay MBE

Lemn is author of a series of books of poetry alongside articlesrecords, broadcasts, public artcommissions and plays. Sissay was the first poet commissioned to write for London Olympics.  His Landmark Poems are installed throughout Manchester and London.  They can be seen in The Royal Festival Hall and The Olympic Park.  His Landmark Poem, Guilt of Cain, was unveiled by Bishop Desmond Tutu in Fen Court near Fenchurch St Station.

Lemn is associate artist at Southbank Centre, patron of The Letterbox Club and The Reader Organisation, ambassador for The Children’s Reading Fund, trustee of Forward Arts Foundation and inaugural trustee of World Book Night and an honorary doctor of Letters.  He has been a writer from birth and foremost he is a poet. His new book Gold From the Stone will be published in August 2016. His 2015 desert IslandDiscs was made pick of the year for 2015 

Sissay’s installation poem ‘what if’ was exhibited at The Royal Academy alongside Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley.  It came from his Disko Bay Expedition to the Arctic alongside Jarvis Cocker, Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Leslie Feist and  KT Tunstall.  His 21st century poem was released on multi-million award winning album Leftism by Leftfield.  A violin concerto performed at The BBC by Viktoria Mullova was inspired by Lemn Sissay’s poem Advice For The Living.

Sissay’s award winning play Something Dark directed by John McGrath has been performed throughout the world and his stage adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Novel Refugee Boy at West Yorkshire Playhouse tours Britain in 2014.  A BBC  TV documentary, Internal Flight, and a radio documentary, Child of the State,  were both broadcast about his life and his Ted Talk has close to a million views. His documentary on the late Gil Scott Heron was the first public announcement of Scott-Heron’s comeback.

Sissay describes dawn in one tweet every day. One Morning Tweet became an award winning building MVMNT Café commissioned by Cathedral group designed and built by Supergroup’s  Morag Myerscough. It is the only building in the world built below a tweet. Cathedral also commissioned a Landmark Poem,  Shipping Good,  which is laid into the streets of Greenwich.

He was the first Black Writers Development Worker outside of London. He created and established Cultureword (part of Commonword) where Sissay developed supported and published many new writers who’ve gone on to a life of creativity.  Sissay received an MBE from The Queen for services to literature and an honorary doctorate  from University of Huddersfield and Univeristy of Manchester.  University of huddersfield run The Sissay PhD Scholarship for care leavers: the first of its kind in the UK.

The Guardian newspaper heralded the arrival of his first book Tender Fingers In A Clenched Fist.   “Lemn Sissay has Success written all over his forehead”. He was 21. But he had other matters in mind.  Between the ages of 18 and 32 he tracked his family down across the world. Although many people know his story…his career as a writer happened in spite of his incredible life story not because of it.

Lemn has a new book Gold from the Stone, it is an anthology of new and selected poems and was published in August 2016.

In June 2015 Lemn Sissay was elected Chancellor of The University of Manchester. He says “my role is to inspire and be inspired”. 

Lemn is a prolific public speaker, recent speaking engagements (2016) include The Moth, Letters Live, World Health Organisation International Conference, StAnza International Poetry Festival, Ennis Book Club Festival, World Book Day Launch, TEDX Manchester and Future Everything. Lemn will be appearing at WOMAD, Greenbelt Festival, Edinburgh Book Festival and Going Global, Cape Town and St Clementun Literature Festival, France in Spring / Summer 2016.

He has made various  BBC radio documentaries on writers such as Gil Scott Heron, The last Poets, JB Priestley, Edgar Allan Poe and poetry films.  Lemn will be presenting two Ten Pieces Proms for the BBC at the Albert Hall in July 2016 and a BBC radio series called Origin Stories and much more.

Lemn’s head is in London where he’s based, his heart is in Manchester where he is not, his soul is in Addis  and his vibe is in New York where his mother lives.  He blogs openly for personal reasons:   

Google “Lemn Sissay” and all the hits will be about him. There is only one Lemn Sissay in the world!

 

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