A Winning Case

I’m tired.I have won my case against Wigan Council  and I should be happy but I am just  tired. I have been awarded a six figure sum. I will receive a written apology and my files will be returned to me sans redactions. Believe it or not there’s a lot of goodwill between  Wigan Council and me. One day there’ll be  a Christmas Dinner for Care Leavers in Wigan.I should be throwing a party for my “win” but I won’t.  This case has lasted over three years and a lifetime. It has tested me to the core, as it should’ve. But I want you to know this: If you were one of the 380 people sat in the audience for two hours at The Royal Court Theatre listening to my Psychologists Report as read by Julie Hesmondhalgh then you will have heard it all.

As my story unfolded through the lense of the psychologist you will have heard the shocking effect that all this had. But you will also have heard of my treatment of some women over fifty years.   It was all in The Report.   I have been making amends on this matter  for some years and will continue to. The amends are actions of significance.

We boys and men can be messed up for all kinds of reasons.    Some of us (men) use alcohol to disguise our behavior from ourselves.   Male trauma  can reflect directly and negatively on the women who have the misfortune to have passed through our lives. None of them deserve that misfortune. Blaming alcohol or a broken past doesn’t cut it.

It was a woman who came to The Royal Court Theatre who described The Report to me as “radical vulnerability”.  It is women who have helped me through my life.  Women support both my lawyer and barrister.  It is a woman who carried me.  If anyone practices radical vulnerability it isn’t me  hearing my psychologists report  at the royal court theatre it is women,  every day of their lives.

Photographs: top: Julie Hesmondhalgh and I on stage at the Royal Court. Second photo: Subrina Kidd and I at my birthday party in Manchester.  Third photo: My friend Becky Swift at  TLC (The Literary Consultancy.)  Fourth photo My mother in the “long jump” on her school sports day in the 1960’s Ethiopia

94 thoughts on “A Winning Case

  1. Dear Lemn
    It is a good thing you have won your case.
    It is also perfectly reasonable that it does not make you happy.
    There is some justice in the settlement, but it cannot in any way compensate you for the losses and hurt you suffered.
    You have inborn understanding of right and wrong, and inborn ability to express yourself. Nothing and no one has or has had the ability to take this away from you.
    Thank your parents for this legacy, and do continue, as you always have, to make good use of it.
    I am glad you and Wigan extend the hand of friendship to each other.
    With love and hugs

  2. A Bitter-sweet moment for sure… your dignity has been breathtaking throughout. I was struck by something you said at a performance in Alnwick I attended just before the aroyal Court – it was about being hugged – such a simple thing to offer any child, but missing for you – I wish you years of hugs from those who genuinely love you and a lifetime of kisses, invisible and visible – keep counting the love…. you inspire

  3. #Lemn, thank you for your courage., Your uncompromising sharing of injustices you have experienced and their devastating effect. You continue to be the voice of the child in care. You break my heart, your poetry heals it.

  4. Congratulations on a hard fought and hard won campaign Lemn. Now rest and recoup – there’s lots more life and work ahead of you.
    All my best,

  5. Oh Lemn you need more love. Well done for seeing this through and it can’t have been easy. Yet it was for you the only way to retribution and now you’ve got it. Bundle it up and put it away. It’s done, you’ve done well, there’s no more to make it better.
    Making things better for children in care with your knowledge and compassion is their gain given by you. Carry on you noble man.
    With a hug from me. X

  6. Don’t beat yourself up about people you may have hurt. It happened. It can’t be undone. It’s there. But yes, make amends, do your best, use your understanding to help others heal.
    Justice for yourself, or justice for Ethiopia, doesn’t undo wrongs, but it helps both the wronger and the wronged to move on to a better future. To heal.
    Look at yourself: you have already done so much.
    You are exhausted, drained. You need to take time now, rest. Breathe.
    And then start forward into a new light, with a bit less weight.

    Spot on about women: it’s a man’s world, but it don’t mean nothing without women. You have hurt some, but you have helped many, now you will help many more; and perhaps you will find some heart-healing love in return: you deserve it, not because you’re the great fighter and poet, but because we all do, because you’re just yourself, Lemn Sissay.

    • Thankyou Jim. I appreciate it. Thankyou. Rather than beating myself up I am just trying to use this opportunity to bering truth to power. Cheers man.

  7. I am happy for you, that your voice has been heard, that the trauma you experienced at the hands of the state has been acknowledged and upheld. You have become a voice for the children in the system who feel voiceless. I hope you find time to rest and care for yourself, now.

  8. Happy you won your case and that you are surmounting the worse parts of your life experience by sharing the best part of you with so many

  9. Thank you for everything you are doing, using this pain and persistence to help protect others, and ensure other children are heard and truly cared for. Much respect for also showing that true apologies include trying to make amends. I hope it helps now to know how much you are surrounded by love, warmth and respect.

  10. Good morning Lemn. Thank you doesn’t seem like an adequate response to this post or to everything else that you’ve shared. I was at the Report ( you used my photo of the tickets on your fb page) – for me that was a party of sorts. A kinda brutal unlike any other party that I’d ever attended. It was clear to us all then that you’d already won. As a mother to two boys your words today remind me of the need to continue to protect them, let them know they are loved and to hold them when things go wrong as they surely will. As a psychologist I know from sharing your words with my clients – that they heal and give hope ( my clients call it lemntherapy). These words came despite everything you’d been through. And as a woman I thank you for owning your part in past relationships. It’s an honour to know you Lemn and hope our paths cross again soon. You know you’re alwsys welcome in Oxford x

  11. Happy for you that justice has been served, not only for you but for all those in a similar situation. Change will not happen without the bravery of people like you who fight the hard fight to make reality known.
    Plenty of men have treated women badly and not had your start in life. Neither have they apologised. Acknowledging the past and speaking for a more positive future will be of huge benefit to all. Good luck and I look forward to seeing more of your powerful performances in the future.

  12. I was there that Sunday.

    Come on kid.
    The woods are lovely,dark and deep
    But I have promises to keep
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    You have a beautifulness that shines through.

  13. Beautifully and powerfully written. I’m so glad this has been resolved. It won’t bring back those years and lost experiences back but it’s been acknowledged and a line has finally been drawn. And now to the future! What an exciting thrilling ride you have ahead of you. Love you my friend and brother, Sally xxxxx

  14. There are lots of things I want to say to you Lemn but but I am going to keep it simple. My heart is full of love for you. Know that there are lots of us who have been with you on your journey, looked fwd to your daily tweets, have had the pleasure of meeting you and were at the Royal Court for the reading of the Report.
    We will continue to be there.

  15. Hello Lemn
    It’s good that you have won your case. I also get the lack of joy at winning.
    I admire your openness and your courage to apologise.
    All the best,

  16. Dear Lemn,
    I deeply touched from your battle . But I am glad you won the case. You face your past painful history with courage. It can make you more stronger and we would like you to continue to leave your legacy to the children in care . We love you we will be with you in your beautiful journey. Keep going my dear !!!

  17. Sometimes Justice does take place but I am sure the anger,hurt and sadness one has suffered over the years can not disappear overnight,May the love that all we who follow you and the wonderful words you write help you at this turning point in your life.A true example of “Only the Brave ” .take carexxx

  18. Dearest Lemn,
    A beacon of light and hope. Your words and action speak to us all. You have and are leading the way. At least you will have some money for your older age, and if you had been treated as a child ‘should’ and I use that word purposely, you would not have had to take this action. Enjoy that security. Rest, take some serious time for you. You are a gorgeous person and that hug from Subrina speaks volumes about the special person you are. I love the ‘Lemntherapy’ that Audrey Daisley mentioned. You have been therapeutic for many of us. Igniting our paths and continuing shine like the brightest star in the care family. I wish you so much love and happiness. x

  19. Lemn, you have had to focus so much on this case for so long that winning it is bound to leave a gap. I’m sure you’ll fill that with the good that you do in this world. I understand you feel the need to make ammends but make ammends to yourself as well. Forgive yourself for not being perfect when you were younger. We’re supposed to make mistakes and learn from them and you are taking advantage of the learning opportunities you gave yourself. You’re a brave man to do that so publicly and an inspiration to so many.

  20. I hardly know you, but my ears pricked up when I was lying in bed listening to radio 4 and it was you.

    I think you came into this life to experience this hurt and transform it vulnerably on behalf of humanity and I think you have or are succeeding in your life purpose.

    Thank you for being part of the human race.

    We are one!

  21. Dear Lemin,
    Congratulations to you on winning your case. It is my strong conviction that you continue your fight for human rights. I am proud of you that your past challenges have not hindered you from being such a strong and beautiful soul. They rather made you more of that!

  22. The Report was one of the most emotional experiences in my life. I was so touched I couldn’t come to say hello. This achievement today is a true liberation for you and all the people who were there. May this be a start to a new journey, Lemn. Thanks for being so special xxx

  23. I am so happy you won the case. It is your personal victory over a system that you exposed with vigour, not just for yourself but for all those who look up to you. What a fight to the end? You were stripped of everything you held private and you still chose to make it public. I was right there with you in spirit, during the reading, before and after. Lemn, that takes courage, it takes a strong character and a special personality. I have rarely seen this combination. You did it. You won. No wonder you feel drained. Please take time to heal. Celebrate, yes CELEBRATE LEMN. Do it in your special way but don’t look back. There’s nothing to fix or apologize for. Refresh, recharge and take it from there. Lemntherapy is very powerful. Trust me. I love you Lemn.

  24. Lemn, you’ve been through the worst of times … but now you need to rest, catch up on sleep and re-energise … because the best of times are ahead of you … much love, Elizabeth x

  25. This outcome is the only one that could have been. The pain and hurt and sense of injustice will never leave you but perhaps it will never hurt as much again. You have a very bright future Lemn and a mission to be the voice of children in care who cannot speak for themselves. Use your gifts wisely but most of all learn to love yourself. Enjoy the future Lemn with peace in your heart. Sending you hugs and the very best of wishes for the next chapter in your incredible life.

  26. Just woke to read your blog. Agree with all the lovely sentiments above. Lucky that picture left the box in my guest room cupboard

    You Might just be feeling “Happiness” (courtesy of Aminatta Forna) you’ve probably met her?

    Have a lovely weekend …Music and dancing ….

    “Auntie “ Anette

  27. you are a role model for many as to how your past, while highly significant, need not define you. I am so pleased that your case against Wigan has had the outcome it should have but not surprised that you are just exhausted not elated. Well done for enduring it. Keep on keeping on.

  28. Hello Lemn, I have just read your good news and I will be happy for you as you slowly come to terms with what you have achieved in this long, hard battle to have the great hurt done to you finally acknowledged. Perhaps you will in time be able to use part of the settlement in a positive step forward to find and create that space to call Home , Lemn’s very own place of quietness and private thoughts.Do you remember you made a promise to yourself as 2018 happened that this was the year to make a place to call home for yourself? Please don’t let it drift Lemn. A place in your future life as you begin to let go of the sad, hard days of the Wigan past. I will end now with the words I said to my children and now say to my Grandchildren at the end of a tiring day. “A ‘sweet dreams ‘ kiss to put under your pillow tonight and a Happiness HUG to wrap around you for tomorrow. Peace Lemn. From your Armagh driver. Patricia

  29. Your win is an acknowledgment of a massive loss. That would be hard to celebrate, but glad there is goodwill between you and Wigan, sounds like a lot of amends to be made. Have you read Brene Brown on vulnerability? If not, there’s a Ted talk she did which is a good way in 🙂

  30. Lemn I dont know you but I did meet you many moons ago,love the honesty in your work. Glad you have a victory. The legal side is sorted.Reclaiming the loss in childhood harder to do. Some peace though,however hard won. Every good wish wished for you.

  31. Aw, man… you have such an ability to cut to the quick, to reach into the heart, to stoically remain steadfast, to give voice to the unspeakable, to rejoice in the now, to knit together the personal and the general, to represent (always to represent), to unite the discouraged and displaced, to listen to the unheard, to know what needs to be known, to write with might, to yield softly, to stand firm, to shout into the darkness, to sing in the light, to burn brightly, even to burn out, to find new fire in the people around you, to draw people in, to inspire when hope seems lost, to lead when there is chaos ahead, to keep faith when even the deities have abandoned those who are lost, to cheer the downspirited, to uppress not oppress, to be beautiful when life is ugly, to measure time in poetry and prose, to capture the souls of admirers and foes, to just be amazing. For you are amazing. And incredible. And wonderful. And in all of the experiences you share, there is integrity. A heart so full. There surely can never be a lack of arms willing to embrace all that you are. There is sadness, sure… and battle scars. And love and loss, and suffering. But always, always… a sense of more to come. A future worth creating for and in. But a present… as a gift for today. Lemn, you are soooooo loved. Know that. Hear that. Internalise it. Take it. Be loved. Thank you for all that you do, and say and are and will be. Hugs and ting. Always ting. x

  32. Dear Lemn,

    Glad that finally you are at a stage where you probably feel sense of partial closure, after a long fight. Now is the time to look forward to that next chapter of your life, don’t let anything or anybody disturb your inner peace. No one can change the part. But you have a complete control of the future. Keep on shinning and be a voice for the voiceless. I am always proud of you. My 9 years old daughter admires you and always talks about you.
    Joy and peace.


    • Shewit what a kind and thoughtful comment. I take them to heart and appreciate your candour. You are right. Thanks All good wishes Lemn

  33. Well done Lemn. I hope that the tiredness passes and leaves you with the peaceful energy you both deserve and must need for all your good works. You really are an inspiration. Radical vulnerability is indeed a powerful force and everyone privileged enough to be at The Report felt it immensely.

    I wish you all the best going forward,


  34. Hello Lemn,
    I am in Australian and just listened to your story ‘Proof of my Existence’ on the Moth podcast. It blew me away…and after years of working in the youth justice system, felt horribly familiar.
    After hearing your story, I looked you up and found your blog. I’m pleased to read you’ve had a victory of sorts, though I’m sure it’s bitter-sweet.
    I’m contacting you to ask your permission to share your Moth story with my social work students. I teach preparatory classes before the students undertake their field placements. I regularly try to impress on them my mantra that a FILE is a person’s LIFE. What you write and how you write can shape someone’s sense of self and personal narrative forever, so write carefully and compassionately – write how you would like to be written about. Your story would help to bring this message home and hopefully, impress on them the importance of this.
    I know I can access the Moth website, etc online, but I would love to have a recording that I could use for my classes. Of course, if you prefer that I didn’t do that, I will respect that.
    Best wishes,

  35. nobody, nobody, can help what they were born into,nobody nobody , is more helpless than a child, nobody, nobody, is like you, amazing!!!!! you turned it all around.

  36. I’ve listened to you perform at Canada Water Library and today I used a few of your quotes on ‘dysfunction and untruths’ and ‘incredible ability to heal’ in a library display for the forthcoming mental health awareness week.
    For as long as I can remember I have felt a connection with among us who have known from a very young age what it is to be lost and afraid.
    My trauma began before I could speak. Acting and poetry have helped me through out my life but a shattered experience of trust if hard to rebuild.
    This week I read about your experiences in care and the betrayal of trust. Your openness has inspired me.
    I hope their (social services) apology will in time mean more.
    You hold a light so we may follow.

    • Thankyou Rachel. Fortunately I shalln’t depend on their apology for my well being. 😉 You are right. In time it will mean more. And that’s what all this is about – Time.

  37. Lemn what fascinates me so much about your story and your presence is the raw soulful beauty the emanates from you both on and off stage. If one were to imagine that we as souls choose our journey here on earth for what ever reason unknown to the human mind, one would hope that all painful journeys contain within them them a deep beauty born out of alchemy. What you share with the world in both your words, your humour, and your very being is a gift of immense magnitude. I am working my way through your book ‘Golf from the Stone’. It is the FIRST poetry book I have EVER read in my life. I kid you not !!I I am totally hooked, drawn in, timeless space-less consumption of each line. I do a lot of work with vulnerable groups, refugees, youth at risk, addiction, mental health…and as I sat and listened to your words recently, I wished that I could capture the experience and share the expansiveness of it with everyone who experiences pain rejection isolation resilience vulnerability love fear…..you have turned all of these in to utter beauty. Nothing short of sacred.

  38. Lemn you are so brave and honest ,I’m so happy you got justice for the way the state treated you .
    You continue to help so many children and young adults in so-called care ,that I’m so grateful for .you really are a true inspiration and I wish you health and happiness in life
    I was very lucky to meet you in Belfast and had my photo taken with you which I will treasure for ever
    Love and blessings always
    Teresa x

  39. Hello Lemn,

    I’m curious to know what happened to Norman. Was he ever personally aware of your reunion with your mother? Was he ever brought to account, or was he dead/ gone by the time your case against the council was pursued?

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