Sunday 2 Sunday. 7 Days.

A full run down of the past seven days. 

Sunday 29th Jan 7pm  The Orange Theatre in Richmond.  Pouring rain.  My GPS is busted. Crazy driving weather driving me crazy. Not a good look. Sold out.  No costume, no music.No direction.  Me, the stage,  the script & the audience. The first word is “Dark”.Nearly  2 hours – a standing ovation.  I’m moved and I’m driving  home.  10.30pm. Arrive in Dalston. I start  finishing a different script for tomorrows speech.  Finish at 2am.

Monday 5am Hackney. Wake. Write and upload morning tweet.  Uber to Euston Station.  Travel to Manchester.   Finish photos for power-point of speech on train journey.. Power. Point.   Transfer photos and script toUSB.   Arrive at BBC North Media City at  12. 45pm.  pick up pass.  4th Floor.  Hand over USB to techs.  1.30pm on stage.  Three hundred people. All BBC staff. There by choice.  Script printed. About to deliver speech.  Many people I know.  I am given the clicker from the techs.  Silence.   Deep breath.

 

The clicker doesn’t work. I look out at audience. The clicker doesn’t work.  No photographs. A little part of me dies then rises.   I read the speech.  The event is  a success in spite of the carefully selected slides.  Though it was difficult to gauge.

Here’s what would have been the last photo of the speech. It was Sir Christopher Bland ex director General of The BBC,   step father of my good friend Jamie Byng.  He passed away within the week just gone.  The picture  was accompanied with a quote from a colleague which typified him and concludes the subject of my speech – Diversity.   His colleague said this of him  “He never supported anything when he hadn’t interrogated his own mind. But once he made it up he was resolute.” 

I travel straight from BBC North to The Malmaison for 5pm.  Change into running clothes and run.

 

Tuesday 6am I write and upload morning tweet then have a  Malmaison  breakfast  with  Alison Shedlock. She is Head of Hospitality and events at University of Manchester and heading firmly towards friend territory.  We discuss  “Lemn Sissay products”  in the University merchandise field. it is The Inspire Range.  There’s not been a range such as this before.  Presently there is one product.  

But there will be more.  One of the products is a beautiful notebook with these words

At 10.30am Still at the Malmaison in Manchester – still Tuesday –  I meet the incredible woman that is Sam Walker.  Once the presenter for BBC Drive-time in Manchester she now does a podcast.Her series has been bought by Audible. So we do the interview. It is beautiful.  She has done her research. We are both on the edge of tears.  I’ve met her once before.

 

Interview over. Leave Manchester at 1pm for Sussex. Five hours door to door. I arrive in Wadhurst. I’m driven  through Sussex mist to Ticehurst. Night falls.   Arrive 6.15pm at  place called The Bell.  I check in to an astounding apartment room. It’s the one where the path leads on the right.  It is called Between The Lines and the theme of the room is books.

The Lodges at The Bell, Ticehurst for We Like Today. Architecture and Interior Photography by Jim Stephenson

At  6.30pm I am sat at the dinner  table in The Bell  with property developer Richard Upton and his family and friends plus Jacob, and Marina.  Marina started  The Forgiveness Project.  Richard is a supporter.  After the gorgeous meal and good conversation we walk upstairs to a beautiful room.   There’s an hundred people in there already.

 

At 7.45pm Marina Jacob and I  begin.  I tell my story.  Jacob tells his.  Marina is the conductor. Jacob punched a man who died a week later.  He was imprisoned for manslaughter.  He is an inspiration.  Read about him.  There are tears and laughter from a genuinely gripped  audience.  Afterwards drinks and conversations…..   By midnight I return to my room – Between The Lines – and sleep.

Wednesday  5am at The Bell . Outside my room  is surrounded by weightless  rain. It swirls. It’s water dust.  It’s still dark.   I Write a letter to The hotel to thank them.  7.45am check out.   Breakfast.  Train.   Arrive London Bridge 10.30am.  Realise  I can’t go home  to change so  buy clothes.  Uniqlo.   Then to Euston and on a train to Manchester. Check in at Malmaison 5pm.   Nice Room.    Then straight away onto  a  train  from Manchester to Bury Met Theatre.  Arrive  6pm  for an evening with Lemn Sissay.  Check the Tech. Lights. Lectern. Sound.  Lemn.   It’s a poetry reading.  It’s an hilarious gig.  About seventy minutes on stage.     Get home to the Malmaison for 11pm.

Thursday I wake at 5am  and upload morning tweet and get the 6am train from Manchester to London.  Arrive at  8.30am for a meeting at 9am in Soho. Therapy.  Yeah you heard me.  Then  to Bread and Butter café  in Dalston for 11am. I meet a facilitator  to discuss The Christmas Dinner Weekender which I’ve organised for later this month.  But I’m too tired.  I get to my own bed early and watch daft tv on my own. Bliss.

Friday 5am write and upload morning tweet.     10am. I get some  inspiring news : My play Something Dark is to go on the Syllabus. Due in no small part to Dr Deirdre Osborne of Goldsmiths.   Oberon Books  will be publishing Something Dark  later this year.   At 11am meet Deborah Frances White at Shoreditch House. in east London.

We are concocting plans together.  Deborah is an extraordinary person. Two of her projects are Global Pillage and The Guilty Feminist.   They attracted  over one and an half million downloads in January.  Serious business.  Our meet finishes at 2pm. I cycle to Bread and Butter to spend the afternoon discussing  The Christmas Dinner  Weekender on 24th to 26th February.  We have two extra ordinary facilitators for the weekend. The weekend will include representatives form all the christmas dinners. It will be held at an arts organisation called  Metal in Southend.    Educationalist and creativity  genius  Nick Corston posted  a video of my good self at a head teachers conference that I hadn’t seen..

I was so displeased with my speech (at the time) that I offered half my fee back via Nick and I think he advised me not to.  So a year after the event… Here it is.

Saturday  6am  Write and upload morning tweet.  10am I travel from London to Manchester.  Check in to The Malmaison. Again. Arrive 12.15pm.  Drop bags. Don’t check in to room. Race across Manchester.   Arrive exactly 1pm at AMC Cinema. Watch LION.  Drained by  the beauty of it. The closeness to my story.  The love of the mother. I’m hurt by it too.     

No family has ever wondered where I’ve been or when I’m coming home.  I’ve never quite got over that. I know. You’d think I would’ve.  But why would you think that?  LION shows an adopting parent has the familial bond equal to any birth parent.   I’m in pieces outside the cinema but I’m joyous too. There is light. So I start back across Manchester to the hotel and as I’m  crossing Albert Square in front of the Town Hall  I hear chanting and it gets louder and louder.  Then like with  the most perfect timing a Peoples March turns the corner from the street onto the square straight towards me. It’s. It’s beautiful.     I was with them last week.  The emotion of Lion pounces inside me and  I am lifted by Manchester,  its people and their singing.

 

I watch and sing and take photographs and walk gently away.    I’m worried about the infiltration of these new movements. Worried about covert surveilance.  We who have experienced this from the 1980’s in Manchester should be alerting the young.  On the way back to the hotel I see an inspiring young woman and ask for a photograph with her placard.

Here’s the  poem I wrote on becoming  Chancellor. There is a tangential and tangible link to the sign above and I am proud of that.

I arrrive back to  hotel.  Meet my friend Yusra. She’s an amazing actor.   Ofcourse we’re posing. It’s fun!

Then I Meet head of  production company to talk about a project and ask her advice.   Two friends arrive. They tell me they’ve been looking at really nice hotels.  “That’s nice”  I say  – What a cool thing to do”. They tell me  it’s  for my birthday party.  LION pounces. I still haven’t checked in and it’s 6pm.   I wave goodbye and go to  Contact Theatre.  The play I am seeing is  called I told my mum I was on an RE Trip.     It is four women on stage.   It is verbatum Theatre (partly)   by 20 Stories High.

At the end of “I told my Mum I was Going on a R.E. Trip” I am in pieces.  I have learned more about the subject in 90 minutes than I have in my whole life.  To my shame.  The stars include real women from Northern Ireland.   The play  must go  to Belfast. Derry too.

It is the first thing I ask the artistic director Keith Saha. “Yes”  he says.  So please  People of Northern Ireland.  This play is fearless beautiful  complex and empowering like you.  Bring yourself and your friends.  We need theatre more than ever.  I am drained having experienced LION  and this show.  So  I walk back to the hotel through the night at 10pm. Pick up some razor blades. Shower and shave. I shower and shave everyday but not at 10pm. There’s a reason.

Sunday 4.15am. Wake.  Taxi arrives at Malmaison at 5.30am. I’m  at BBC Breakfast studio for paper review. Within an hour of arriving I’ve chosen the stories and I’m on air.  I got out stories like Noma Dumezeweni’s  speaking out that Julian Fellowes could have black actors in the all white stage version of Downton Abbey. I featured Lena Dunham flagging up the danger of trolls on  young women. The closure of Sure Start Centre’s around the country.

At 9am I’m back at Malmaison. I write and upload morning tweet.    Meet friend, Jason,  for breakfast.    I’m writing this on the train back to London.   2pm on Sunday.   That’s my seven day run down.  It’s a long blog.  Most of you won’t have read it to here and who can blame you.  I write this  in lieu of family.    I’ve never had a family  member wait for me to come back when I travel.  Or feed me.  None have missed me or tell me they wonder what I’ve been up to or  congratulate or admonish me in my travels.  I have a sister in Addis who tells me this is not true.  It’s my new families prerogative to deny this.  Its mine to say it.

If you see Lion you’ll know why I say these things.  My story and that of the  central character are similar.  And yet different.   I’ll end on this.   When I went into care  I wasn’t touched. This continued throughout my time in children’s homes.    I can be incredibly close and  distant at the same time.  That’s my weakness. Closeness. But I do everything to fight the weakness.  I am close to many people now. I think. That was  my week. Thanks for reading. 


41 thoughts on “Sunday 2 Sunday. 7 Days.

  1. Lemn thank you for this. I am tearful reading it but I’m not quite sure why. I’m not family or friend to you ( yet!) but I wonder where you are if you’ve not tweeted your morning words. I share them with friends and they too have started wondering what’s happened if I haven’t shared. Connections to others are our core, shaping our identity at its deepest part. Your work ( you, your story and your willingness to reach out to us all so consistently ) has shaped me too. Thank you. A X

  2. Thank you my lovely friend. A metaphorical hug from me as I get ready to sleep. And what my family all says to each other. Even if it’s only teatime when the conversation stops we say it: night night. God bless. X

  3. I was on the Media City Tour from 10.30-12.30 on Monday, must’ve missed you! Love reading your blog, so full of energy , enthusiasm and passion for what you do! x

  4. It’s an incredible week, but that much giving is exhausting. So spread out. i couldn’t do it. You need a holiday, some meditation and quieting of that wonderful mind my friend… X

    • I do meditate. How else could I do all this. And how else could I enjoy doing it as much as I do. I am uninterested in being “busy”. I am more interested in doing fulfilling work to the best of my ability. I am interested in watching and listening too. So it all works. Honest.

  5. Fantastic lemn as always. I’m glad your enjoying theatre. Hey – I have empathy for your story lemn – it’s moving and inspirational but people really care. I very much look forward to your blog it’s uplifting and honest. ( I’m hoping to read your poem ‘colour blind ‘ at a coming open mic – the event is focused on reading favourite poets work. I can relate to this and i remember being really suprised and happy at the ending when fiirst reading it myself. it’s very true. Take care anyway. keep inspiring by being you.

  6. I feel rather honoured to have shared two extremities of the week with you. I was so impressed and moved by your performance at the Orange Tree, and like you was tremendously educated , and moved to both laughter and tears by the wonderful ” I told my Mum I was going on an RE trip”. And from your photo, I can see we sat at extremities of the theatre. I was on the front row,and right by the sign language interpreter. Her interpreting gave another layer of meaning to the play, even for the hearing.
    As I bought a copy of the play, I was thinking it would be great if “Something Dark” was available in print . Mazeltov on the publication and being chosen for the syllabus as well. I think ” I told my Mum..” would be valuable on the syllabus .
    Thank you . A good week.

  7. Thanks Lemn for sharing your week and your thoughts. Always an interesting read.
    I know an audience isn’t family but we care about you … where you are, where you’ve been , if you’re sad, if you’re happy , if you’re having fun …. and so on

    Happy Monday x

  8. Wow! Well that was a manic week! I’m out of breath reading! And for some reason felt like I had to read real fast! Aah thanks for letting me know where that hotel with the books on the wall is! I must go, what a bookworm fantasy!
    Oh Lemn you are a wonderful human please always remember that in the dark hours, you have with your writing, the projects you work on, your speaking and all your other endeavours generated a following of people like me, we may not be your family, (I get that longing & feeling of something always being amiss, my childhood was another awful story so I can empathise) we may not really know you, but you know we really truly care and I for one look forward to keeping up with what you are doing and supporting you whenever I can. (Just one thing, the Sel Fie?? Joke….er, not real funny Bit of a tumbleweed one, I’d work on them, or leave it to the pro’s!) Have a great week now Mr xx

  9. I find it oddly satisfying to hear about your week. The post made me feel like I’m more than an outsider looking in. And I guess, in the end, that’s what we all want.

  10. Dear Chancellor,
    People do care –I care. Please know/remember this.
    (on a more frivolous note, Uniqlo is ace!).
    Hasta pronto,
    Esther (fearsome Spaniard).

  11. What an exciting week full of wonderful opportunities and new connections. I am a huge admirer of Marina at the Forgiveness Project. I was thinking about you when I saw Lion this weekend. It left me speechless and I could barely move or breathe as the credits rolled. I wondered how you would respond to it and what you thought. We’re meeting tomorrow for the first time. I must admit I’m nervous but I know you’re going to be incredible. In advance I’m so happy you said yes.

  12. I’m not going to Lion at the cinema – will get the DVD and then leave it on a shelf unwatched.
    Everyone should have had someone who would throw themselves under a bus for us. We don’t want them to actually do it, just be secure that they would. There’s no substitute except, maybe, being that person for someone, a child.

  13. I made a connection with you all those years ago when you came to my school and wowed the students and teachers. I have followed everything you have done ever since and still feel connected to you (a little too much according to my daughter, she is worried I might drift into stalker territory. I wouldn’t of course but it is our little joke). We know from the responses here alone that many, many folk feel the same. I get it that “we” are your family but we will never be able to take away that feeling of loss you have. I have run out of steam, unlike you. Love you Lemn Sissay.

  14. Was privileged to be at your Bury Met performance – laughed loads – it really was amazing and uplifting and special, and cried too. Cried for you, for all these kids, but also a bit for me. As the little girl who only realised as an adult that she crept to the bottom of the stairs when she could, to fall asleep outside the lounge door, so she’d feel a human touch, when she was carried back up to bed. But actually got shouted at for bring naughty. Positively, as an adult I give and get great hugs and appreciate and delight in my relationships with amazing friends. Loved hearing about your week. Loving your love for life’s experience.

  15. I’m exhausted just reading all this! It’s great to hear of all your doings and I’m so glad I was able to play even a very small part in helping you on the way all those years back – I’ve still got the poem you wrote looking out if my front room window.
    Cath x

  16. except the emoji with a smile and hearts for eyes, can’t figure out how to do that on this computer
    Also thought about you when I saw Lion…..and about my own family’s adoption journey and forgiveness

  17. Hi Lemn,
    I needed oxygen myself after I finished reading your week full of events. Happy for you because you seem to love what you do and do what you love. You put your soul into it. AND you are never alone!! Look at all these people / friends writing back and reminding you how much they care. Friends are choosen family. You are surrounded by noble thoughts and tons of friends. We do care.
    Stay healthy!

    Shewit.

  18. Dear Lemn,

    I bought Gold from the Stone for my 40th in December. The poem that stayed with me from the first few brief flicks through (I have 2 small children so reading time is curtailed through to non-existent!), was Spring: Mayday Mayday, I understood you, that is my experience also.

    So anyway on Friday my youngest turned three and the grief welled up, the plane had crashed and I was crying again. I missed my family, my hopeless and lost family. I wanted them to care enough, to love me enough. I wanted the impossible. Cuddles, kisses, proud arms around my shoulders. Kisses for my boys. Shared joy. I still crave it all, I think I always will.

    And then the word Spring came into my head and quickly the poem followed; the vivid scraps I could recall. And it helped. It really helped. When the catastrophe of it all hits, when there are tears, in the grief there is always that little green of Spring. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect grief IS Spring.

    And each new time the plane hits, if you look at it just right, your head at a certain angle, your eyes squinting just so, you can see new possibilities. And the crash becomes a kind of triumph.

    So this time, this Spring I had your poem to console me and energise me. I think this time I’ve understood that mayday’s get answered. A lot of the time mayday’s get answered, by you, yourself. The hopeful, tenacious, unbreakable self.

    I’m going to spin dreams for my boys from the parachute strings.

    Namaste, Lemn

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