To Manchester With Love.

Every day is a new day.  The aftershock of the attack in Manchester has blown into the hearts of anyone connected to her. Two days later on Thursday 25th May I launched The Summer Exhibition at Turner Contemporary in Margate. The season is called “Every day is a new day”.   
And it is.  Back in Manchester flowers fill Albert Square in rememberance of the vicims of the attack.   On Friday May 26th left some with a quote of my poem Rain”.
There it is

But I had to leave the country on Saturday 27th May and  28th  I arrived in Washington DC, USA . Everyone in America is talking of Manchester and particularly Andy Burnham the new Mayor of Manchester. The Ethiopian community is incredibly well connected (politically) in Washington DC.


On arrival in DC I went straight to  The SEED Awards to receive an award.   Seed is the largest awards ceremony for the Ethiopian Diaspora. The mayor of Washington DC sent a message of appreciation.   After my speech I  received a spontaneous  ovation.

To also receive it from Teddy Afro and Mohamoud Ahmed  – Musical Legends of `Ethiopia –    was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for me.

This photo I shall never forget:  Mahmoud Ahmed and myself.

The next day on 29th it was time to perform another event.   It was for The Ethiopian Community held at a Tefereth Israel  Synagogue in DC. There was also a fashion show. This was taken backstage with designer Salome Autolino on my left. 
The event was beautiful front stage too. And afterwards they sang happy birthday to me.

Signing the name I was born with to the people I will never lose its depthof meaning.
From the kindness of my godmothers heart – Ethiopia Alfred is her name –  straight to mine  she organised an after party birthday party at Checheho Ethiopian Restaurant in Virginia

On 1st June I leave Washington DC arriving at Heathrow on 2nd June.  I  drove for three hours to wales and arrived at 5pm to the Hay Festival .  At 6.30pm I walked onto stage to a sold out audience to deliver one of 30 Hay Reformations.

Here is the full speech.  The Q and A is fascinating It starts at 37.37 mins. (Other Reformers included  Jeanette Winterson, Stephen Fry, Bernie Sanders and Michael Sheen.  )

There was a standing ovation here too. It isn’ton the video. 
On the morning of 3rd June this was the  view from my window. Beautiful beautiful Wales.
Also staying at my accomodation was  Floella Benjamin Baroness Benjamin.  I have been a fan for many years due to her integrity and continual brightness.  

I’m proud to announce that my friend Professor Vikas Shah has been madehonorary professor at Alliance Business School.

That night, still June 3rd and with a strange jetlag  I  read my poems at the festival to another packed audience. I love this photo taken by an audience member after the gig.

On Sunday June 4th I arrived back in Hackney at 4.30pm.  Shattered. The phone rang.  “what time are you arriving Lemn”  It was for an event called  SPEAK UP: THE ART OF PROTEST.    I had forgotten all about it.   I received another call from  Lenny Henry.  My all time hero.  “Come Down Lemn”. I got changed and went to The Donmar Warehouse and performed.    

The next day (Monday June 5th)   I have a lovely meeting with Columnist of The Year Yasmin Alibai Brown and by coincidence Noma Dumezweni

On Tuesday June 6th I travel to Glasgow in Scotland  to give the keynote address on June 7th I speak at 10am at  the SIRCC2017 conference.  A young Scottish woman thanked me from the stage for being the inspiration behind the Scotland Christmas Dinners.  It makes me well up.

And then a  quick interview

And in the evening I presented the residential child care awards. It was truly an honour. Scotland really has something in the child care system that England has not.

I travel from Scotland to Manchester. On June 8th on my way to St mary’s Hospital in Mancehster  my friend Naa and gave me  the opportunity to campaign for the vote . You can hear her laughing. Today is the day we vote.

Then I walked onwards  to the university hospital where  my poem was launched on the wall of the new PET MRI Scan facility for Dementia.  The poem is on the wall in the waiting room.

I sleep at Malmaison in Manchester.  The next day I fly to Dublin and I’m taken to Borris Festival of Writing And Ideas. This  is a prince among festivals.  I did two events. The first was on Friday 9th June with magificent author Claire Keegan and the second on Saturday  10th June  (pictured below ) with Emmet Kirwan and Sam Coll.  It is up there as one of the best readings of the year for me .

The joy of two days at  Borris festival of writing and ideas is in  this photograph as I left on Sunday 11th June 
I wake 7am  Monday 11th June and travel to South London (SE1)  to rehearse  at The English Touring Theatre venue for ROAD written by Jim Cartwright and Directed by John Tiffany.

I rehearse for the next five days.  8am to 6pm. Then after rehearsing on Friday 16th I travel to Winchester. At 9am on Saturday 17th  I speak on stage at  The Winchester Writers Festival. This is an inspiring industry festival. There are scholarships and bursaries for writers between 18 and 25. here they are in the photo. I urged young writers to apply.
In my speech I spoke of how if  I could go back to myself as a writer in his twenties I would tell  myself that writing is actually about connecting with others. A writer is part of a team.
I get on a train at 1pm after the speech and arrive at The Crystal Palace Overland Festival for 5pm. It is so hot and I am so tired.   Then I am on stage  at 6.15pm. The event is good.  And a lot of people came out for me. Magic
I leave at 6.45pm and travel to Euston and arrive in  Manchester for 11pm. At  7am on Sunday morning  filming begins.   And this brings me back to Manchester: The inspiring  brilliant people of Manchester. I am filming for an Artsnight Special to be broadcast on BBC in a couple of weeks.  

One example of the incredible people of this city who are taking part in the festival?  I interview a young woman in her twenties from Kossovo who with five bullets in her bod was left for dead after seeing 19 of her family killed by the serbians.  “My sister was shot in the neck”.   She was airlifted to Manchester,  England. I will leave the rest of the interview for the show which will be broadcast on 29th June. I think.

I finish the day interviewing  brilliant Vicky Featherstone (Royal Court Theatre) and Yael Bartana about her incredible project IF WOMEN RULED THE WORLD.  Filming finishes about 7pm.    If I may say: The Artsnight special is my gift to Manchester with love.  I thank the BBC for this opportunity.   Art will lift us.  As the two young men said in my interview. “The future of Manchester is in the young creatives”. 
On Monday 19th June I catch the 6.43am to London and arrive for rehearsals at 10am The play will be performed at its 30th Anniversary at The Royal Court.  It is about a small Lancashire town in the mid eighties.  Our city of Manchester is partly made of people from towns like this.  I am one of them.  And I carry the city with me wherever I go. I do this with great pride. Now more than ever.

12 thoughts on “To Manchester With Love.

  1. Dearest Lemn Sissay there is so much I want to share with you now after reading your latest Beautiful Busy Blog…phew WOW..
    But I will just say this ..
    ” Big bust on me body…men look……..”
    I said that …from Road..
    I self directed myself and 3 others in the final (?) brilliant scene from that brilliant play 1988 as a ” mature ” theatre studies studies student ( I was 28) It was examined as part of my degree..we got a 2-1 for it and I was immensely proud……….
    I saw it when Ian Drury played Sculley..I remember thinking that he was like a magic glue . I wanted so much to be in it in some way. And then I was. So I made that dream come true..
    And now almost three decades later I am just allowing myself to work as an artist again…
    I am a white queer 57 year old Recoverist..
    You inspire All of Us Lemn Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou.
    You Are Loved..❤️
    Now please get some rest…..X

  2. I read your blog with admiration for the energy that keeps you on stage after stage. I was breathless trying to keep up. You touch so many people along the way. Please don’t stop. Just take care of yourself. Much love to you

  3. Pingback: Belong – Stories from the Museum Floor

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