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.
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.