This blog covers 42 days from Sept 6th October 18th and includes the one year landmark since my installation as Chancellor of University of Manchester. From The Institute of Directors on the roof tops of Pall Mall in London to The Bishops Palace, from Alula Pankhurst in Toronto to aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat the executive director of Oxfam Chief Winnie Byanyima, the people and places I’ve been to this month conspire to inspire me. We begin on September 6th at the BBC recording Theatre for “Lemn Sissay’s Origin Stories” in front of these people.
On Sept 7th this world service interview was broadcast by Hewete hailesalassie
Also on Sept 7th I was also I gave a talk at a conference on safeguarding looked after children at The Royal College of Paediatrics. On Sept 8th I’m interviewed by the inspired musicologist Giles Peterson at his brand spanking new radio station Worldwide FM. Everybody will know about Worldwide in time. Everything follows the music and the noise from our mouths.
And on the evening of 8th I was honoured to present prizes at The Southbank Centre for The CFLA Awards which has a significant write up in trade-zine The Bookseller.
On 9th September I speak about my new book Gold From The Stone on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends. That’s my new shiny cycling helmet getting some attention in the interview
10th September at 1pm Ten Pieces is shown on CBBC. I guess I can announce here that Ten Pieces has been nominated for a BAFTA!! I played a small part in this.
Also on 10th Sept The Guardian publish my article on a typical writing day. Click the pic
Then at 2pm after travelling to Carlisle I am on stage inside Carlisle Castle.
Back in London for 11th September where at 8.30am I am in the studio for an interview with Fern Britton on BBC Radio 2.
It’s on BBC radio 2 I proudly announced to the nation that it is Ethiopian New Years Day. It is also the anniversary of my fathers death in Ethiopia. But I don’t mention that.
Later that day I’m at The Wellcome Trust as a guest on a BBC Radio programme called All in The Mind. So proud to be sat next to Kathleen Jamie.
On 12th Sept I’m quite proud to have written and recorded an ident for BBC 2 in Soho. And just to let you know that every spare minute is spent writing the script for the next recording of Lemn Sissay’s Origin Stories. Each one is 30 minutes long. But this is me in the studio for the 30 second BBC Ident.
On 13th I recorded a poem at Peckham Liberal Club for a poetry series for BBC iPlayer
On 16th I filmed on top of The Institute of Directors in Pal Mall for a short poem for the opening of their conference at The royal Albert Hall
I’ve spent every spare minute writing script for the next origin stories. On 17th I travelled to Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where i am artistic director of an incredible project called Warrior Poets. It is an installation. Full of magic based on poems written by care leavers and refugees. It is a collective work by some incredible artists.
On 18th I took part in a historical reading of the entire De Profundis written by Oscar Wlde at Reading Jail. It took me 6 hours 30 minutes to read. The picture was taken just before the audience came in.
It was part of Artangels INSIDE Ai Wei Wei, Ranulph Feines, Stephen Bartlett Patti Smith and Maxine Peake are just some of the incredibe people involved.
At The Royal Albert Hall today on 19th the film recorded (earlier in September opens The Institute of Directors conference.
On 19th I met with my lawyer. I did an interview with Mark Radcliffe for BBC Radio 6 and Still Loving Thy Neighbour was broadcast on BBC Radio Four in which I was interviewed. I’ve finished my script and in the evening of 19th I recorded live at The BBC Broadcast Theatre for the 2nd of Origin Stories.
And the audience were really special. These events are at capacity which is a real joy.
20th September was the launch of Felix Anaut’s exhibition at The Menier Gallery. He has integrated my words into his art. It is a special rhythm that has been found between us. The woman in the centre is Dame Diana Rigg. In the few quality minutes we chatted about those who call an artist an “arteeeest”. On my right is the genius Felix Anaut himself.
The exhibition opening fizzed with life – Dame Diana Rigg voiced my poems in a video art work at the exhibition. That’s a once in a lifetime for me.
I woke early the following day Wednesday 21st and traveled to Liverpool to meet The Christmas Dinner team. The picture below is half the team in Liverpool. They are incredible.
It’s the third time they’ve met and they are totally on top of it. I took the picture below.
I then got on a train to Leeds to meet the Leeds Christmas Dinner team (pic below) they were absolutely on top of it too . I am so proud that given the right reason people can change the world. We are taking care of the care leaver on Christmas Day. It is the greatest thing. Please get involved if you’d like to. Click on the link.
On 23rd September I travelled to Canada where on 24th I gave the keynote address at The Bikila Awards amongst some incredible winners. I was there to present the lifetime acheivement award to The Pankhurst Family represented by brother Alula Pankhurst. The awards celebrate Ethiopian achievers.
This was the audience after my keynote speech. The Bikila award is about setting standards for young Ethiopians and is named after the Ethiopian runner Bikila who ran barefoot and won in 1960. Against all the odds.
There is a profound connection between The Pankhurst family and University of Manchester. This is Alula Pankhurst who took the award on behalf of his incredible family and their dedication to Ethiopia.
This is the poster for The Bikila Awards. I spend every spare second in my hotel room writing script
On September 28th The Institute of Directors open their conference at The Royal Albert Hall with a video made earlier this month.
Back in England on 29th I speak at The Looked After Childrens Education conference at Oxford Football Stadium and meet the Oxford Christmas dinner team. Then I travelled to Canterbury where on 30th September I spent time at The Marlowe Theatre for an exciting project called Warrior Poets. I am the artistic director. It is an installation based on the poems written by care leavers. What an incredible team of artists to work with. Today was simply rehearsal
I wake in Canterbury on 1st October. the Guardian newspaper published a moving piece which you can read in full here. Please look at the comments beneath the article.
On Oct 1st I presented a BBC ident to link from Railway nation to Kate Tempest.
On 2nd I took the train to Manchester. Look what my hotel The Malmaison in Piccadilly Manchester did – They quoted my poem entitled RAIN
2nd of October was also my book launch at Home in Manchester. It sold out. It was an honour to become patron of Retrak with director Sir Peter Fahey.
Blackwells sold one hundred and fifty books of poetry. They also gave a book launch discount. LOVE Blackwells. I signed the books straight afterwards. Love signing.
On 3rd I travel back to London to perform in the evening at The Backyard Comedy Club for the third of my series “Lemn Sissay’s Origin Stories” which seems to be catching peoples imagination across the country. I especially loved the venue. These have mainly been performed at The BBC Broadcast Theatre. They are broadcast a week after the live performance.
October 3rd was also the first live national broadcast of Lemn Sissay’s Origin Stories. On 4th I judged the Slambassadors poetry competition in south London at somewhere called The Poetry School On 5th I travel to Portsmouth ready.
I wake up on 6th. IT’S NATIONAL POETRY DAY and my first gig is the key note address at a conference in Portsmouth at 9.30am about education and the child in care. Then I left for London and arrived at 1pm. While getting ready to be interviewed by Johnathon Ross I met Margaret Atwood.
Then I do the Jonathan Ross interview. It was fun.
Then straight on a train to Sevenoaks to meet the inspiring Fleur of Sevenoaks Bookshop. It is an independent bookshop. Fleur picked me up from the station looking really cool in the most “independent book shop car” that I have ever seen. They should park it in front of the bookshop and do the publicity shot. On my insistance we took one anyway.
And then I read on stage followed by Q&A at then Sevenoaks. Photo by Roger Lee
The car spun me back to London to the BBC Studio for an 11.30 reading of my poem Architechture on BBC Newsnight. And that’s the end of 6th October National Poetry Day.
On 7th and traveled straight off to The Cheltenham Literature festival The Queens Hotel
Love Cheltenham Literature Festival. Script finished for Origin Stories by the way.
On October 8th I travel to Manchester to read to a capacity audience at Contact Theatre for Manchester International Literature Festival.
On 9th October I travelled to at Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury to see my installation “Warrior Poets”. The public are ready to enter. The installation lasts twenty minutes and every viewing was full. People came out crying with hope and empathy.
I am honoured to have worked with the artists in Canterbury. This piece of work with words by young people in care including refugee children is beautiful. The work brought me and many others to tears as I mentioned. From Canterbury I travel straight to Manchester on 10th to attend meetings at University of Manchester. It’s also the 2nd national broadcast of Lemn Sissay’s Origin Stories on BBC Radio 4. I am writing script for the next . On 12th October I attend the first Hackney Christmas Dinner meeting at Arcola Theatre. I spend the next two days script writing. October 15th I travelled to the Chester Literature festival where a sold out audience awaits.
October 17th is the 3rd broadcast of Lemn Sissay’s Origin Stories on BBC Radio 4. It seems to be going well. Although I am nervous about 4th broadcast and I’m writing it.
So in the evening of 17th Irecorded the final episode of Lemn Sissay’s Origin Stories at BBC Broadcast Theatre. If you want to know who the amazing people are in a production such as this look to the producer. In this case it’s a man called Ed Morrish. Here’s the audience. They’re not here for him. They here for me. That’s what I tell him. Truth is that they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for him.
on 18th October I travelled to Somerset to read in The Bishops Palace in Wells. Another packed audience 200 miles away and another wonderful reading. I love reading my poems to audiences.
Followed by another incredible book signing for Gold From The Stone.
I wake at 5am and travel to University of Manchester for Foundation Day on 18th . It is a year since I was installed as Chancellor at Foundation Day 2015. Winnie Byanyima delivered a fierce moving and inspiring speech “‘Advancing Women’s Rights in an Unequal World.” It made me proud to be Chanellor of The University of Manchester. Winnie received an honorary doctorate alongside Lord David Alliance, Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Mr Anil Ruia and Sir Norman Stoller.
Outside the university a quote lifted from my speech at that same ceremony one year ago almost to the day.
This is not all I’ve done this past six weeks. Thanks for staying to the end. I’m thankful of sobriety. I am thankful to do all of this work. I am grateful. As we walk towards Christmas I am most inspired by the Christmas Dinners. So there’s been Installations, artwork, readings, broadcasts and extraordinary events like the reading in Reading Jail of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. There have been things that have gone wrong. I do an original tweet/poem/ipdate each morning but I missed four. They’re back now. Seeya