Verse Person Singular.

Here are a selection of recordings from TV radio and online which string together my singular internal journey in lieu of family.

I have used publicity on my artistic endeavours  to direct attention to my story.   I have done this  since leaving the care system at eighteen.  My sole mission was to find witnesses to the  institutionalised destruction of a child. And then to find my family. And then to seek redress.  But I could only do this when I left the care system at eighteen.  I had no family. I had no choice.

1989 Manchester  interview with Tony Wilson.

Family is a group of people each taking film of the events of each others  lives. Over a lifetime they argue  about whose clips to use in the final version. In lieu of that I have used any publicity to direct attention, to document,  my story .

1995 Manchester and Ethiopia

But there was documentary evidence. There were  eighteen years of files written about me from birth locked away somewhere.  I found out they were being held by a company called The Iron Mountain.  

2010  BBC Radio 4 Child of The State.

Too many of us are made invisible.  Too many of us are  the sole witness to the  institutionalised attatchment disorder of the care system.  

2012 London The Houses of Parliament:

2014 The Houses of Parliament

Finally  I received my files in the post from The Government  in 2015

On seeing my files and the systemic destruction of my childhood at the hands of the government I decided to take them to court.  This singular determined and personal journey between 1985 and 2015 was revealed on Desert Island Discs in 2015.

One of the greatest gifts  in my life is my reunification with Ethiopia.  Like Ethiopia I was never colonised. Like Ethiopia I was occupied but I fought back and won.  Like Ethiopia I am fiercely independant.  This is a live show for The BBC radio 4 in Ethiopia in 2015.  It’s called Lemn Sissay’s Homecoming.

I returned to England where the  legal process was up and running.  As part of it  I had to submit to  a gruelling pyschologists report.  So I decided to hear The Report for the first time on stage at The Royal Court in London 2017.   Thi sis a first in theatre and psychology.

I won the case this year.   The government settled out of court and apologised.  Shortly afterwards  I  was at Byron Bay Literature Festival in Australia speaking to Richard Fidler live on stage.  It was broadcast in  Australia on  ABC in 2018.  

How do you prove you have noone when there’s noone to prove it to.  We are all witnesses.  We are all documentary makers in the films of our own lives.   Only for most of us the film is private.  May it always be so for you and may there never be a reason for it to be otherwise.  Family is a set of disputed memories between one group of people over a lifetime. 

photo Slater King/Channel 4 Nov 28th 2018

The day I felt most invisible when I left care was Christmas Day. So I have done something about it.  You can find out about that by clicking here.    Thanks for reading watching and hearing me.

24 thoughts on “Verse Person Singular.

  1. I think you’re absolutely fabulous and sooo awesome Lemn. I wish I had an ounce of your strength and an ‘apeth of your remarkable writing talent. My local authority took my smile from me and I no longer enjoy life (my grandson is in long term foster care) but when I hear your voice on radio and see you on film (youtube etc) you make me smile with your bravery and fantastic humour and I know there’s always hope if nothing else. Thank you xx

  2. Lemn, what a brave and fantastic young man you were at 21 years, your courage and joy in your life and power (in spite of everything) are just lovely to see.

    And of course your journey from then to now has been epic…and has touched so many other lives in a positive way.

  3. Hello from Madrid, Spain. Thanks for sharing these recordings. Your inner and vital journey is truly unique.

    I’m really impressed by the first video of 1989. With only 21, you stole the show …

    To continue directing attention to your story and your work of inspiration, I suggest you also make a selection of “clips” of your speeches, especially those moments focused on “creativity”. For example, in your speech at the “Be more creative” event in February, the last four minutes are impressive.

    Best wishes,

    • José, Thankyou thankyou. I appreciate what you have said and I think you are right. I should construct that talk. I will take your advice. I believe in creativity is a force for good in the world and one which is available to us all, as you know. Thankyou

  4. “Adoption is the greatest thing a human can ever do” – thank you for those words. I’m adopted and I was lucky to have the best upbringing I could ever have. I was one of the lucky ones.
    I’ve never found my birth mum – mainly because of what you say …. I work on myself and promised when I achieved “this and that” I’d find her. But I guess I’ll never really be good enough in my eyes to face her …. I want to tell her she did the right thing and I hope she knows that deep down.

    Great work as always Lemn. X

  5. Dear Lemn Sissay – Thank you for you generosity and courage in making Super Kids. It was a truly affecting programme. For me, it was about damage and resilience. It made me remember my own damage, not in a negative way, but in terms of not trying to match up with other people, because my life experience is so different. I forget a lot of the time (keeping busy, of course), and then feel alienated because I struggle with so much others seem to find so easy. I had real ‘Oh, yeah, of course…!’ moment whilst watching. So thank you. Rumi says ‘the pain cures the pain’ – don’t know if that’s true, but looking at it head on surely helps dismantle its power. So, my brother, we have our war wounds and we keep on walking. We have no choice. But it is also a blessing. With metta, Virginia

  6. Beautiful collection, thanks Lemn. Here I sit working from home and listen as I laugh and cry some more!

    Amazing grace indeed.


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