Thank you to Meseret Fikru for being a friend and to Marcos, my God Son. Thank you to my God Mother Ethiopia Alfred Thank you to Dave Haslam for being my friend. Thank you to lebo Mashille for being my friend. Thank you Stik for being my friend. Thank you to Charlie Baker for being my friend. . Thank you to Henry Normal for being my friend. Thank you to Adele Jones to Adele Jones for being my friend. Thank you to Linda Lines for being my friend. Thank you to Joanne prince and Andy for being my friend. Thank you to Subrina Kidd for being my friend. Thank you to Sally Bayley for being my friend. Thank you Suzzette Newman for being my friend. Thank you Guy King for being my friend. Thank you Parvinder Sohal for being my friend. Thank you to Sophie Willan for being my friend. Thank you Sally Abbott for being my friend. Thank you Karen Gabay for being my friend. Thank you Jason Crouch for being my friend. Thank you to the friend who understands that though I haven’t listed their name I love them just the same. Thank you to the friend who refuses to accept my excuse.
Thank you to the publishers and agents. They range from the first printer in Atherton in 1984 – Stephen Hall is his name – to Clare Conville of Conville and Walsh who brokered My Name Is Why. Thank you Clare. A special thank you to Jamie Byng of Canongate Books. Thanks to Whitney McVeigh who introduced us all those years ago at Edinburgh Festival. And thanks to the brilliant editor Francis Bickmore. Thank you to Nicky Wake and to my PA Lara Harrison.
Thank you to Elif Shafak for our discussion yesterday. And thank you to Hans Ulrich Obrist of Serpentiine Gallery, in Hyde park, for his programming of the photographer James Barnor. Thank you to Andrew Combden and Beth Burgess of Brighton Festival. Thank you to all the producers of brighton Festival where I was guest director throughout May 2021. It was the first festival in the UK to emerge from the pandemic and you all did a brilliant job. Thank you
Thank you to every venue that has booked me as a poet and writer over the past thirty five years. It started at The Black Women’s Cooperative – The Abasindi Coop – in Moss Side (1984 first paid gig) to todays event at Belfast Book Festival. Thank you to Jude Kelly, and John McGrath. Thank you to Yasser Bargesh and to Abebe Zegeye for organising the beautiful events in Ethiopia and for supporting literature and literacy throughout Ethiopia.
Thank you to the institutions that have supported me over the years from Pit Prop Theatre in Leigh (Edinburgh Festival 1986) to The British Council in Addis Ababa. Thank you to the broadcasters producers and directors of such as, for example, Tanya Hudson and John O’Rouke. Thank you to Alan Yentob and Peter Symes. Thank you to Lenny Henry for how his work on diversity has infected the entire industry providing the antidote to the airborne pandemic of racism.
Thank you to the poets. Thank you to Linton Kwesi Johnson and to Benjamin Zephaniah.They have been the stars that have shone light, by their actions and words, on the path I have travelled. Thank you to poets Michael Rosen and Valerie Bloom. Thank you to Akala and Kae Tempest for teaching me, as Benjamin Zephaniah, Michael Rosen and Linton do, that activism goes hand in hand with professionalism in the arts.
Thank you to the inspirational family of Pankhursts. Thank you to the late Richard and Rita Pankhurst for giving so much to Ethiopia and for laying a pathway for me and millions of others. Thank you to Alula and Helen Pankhurst for your luminosity and friendship. I may not see you a lot but I feel you all the time. I
Thank you to the musicians, like Neil from Leftfield and artists like Morag Myerscough whom I have been fortunate enough to work with over the years. Thanks to the actors, the players, like Julie Hesmondhalgh and Samantha Morton and thank you to the dancers, painters musicians, designers, photographers (you Aida Muluneh), film makers librarians, academics, lawyers, teachers, doctors, and nurses, singers and storytellers, social workers and directors who have been a part of my life as both friends and enablers of my adventure. Thank you Saleem Tariq and you Sharon.
Thank you to the Charitable Organisations where I am Trustee: The University of Manchester, The Foundling Museum and The Gold From the Stone Foundation. The Gold From The Stone Foundation supports the Christmas dinners. Thank you to every single volunteer of the nineteen Christmas Dinners which took place in the middle of the pandemic on Christmas Day 2020 six months ago. The food and presents were transported directly to the homes of young people on Christmas Day 2020. Soon we will be meeting for Christmas 2021. The Christmas Diners were established in 2013 and have grown each year to the present day. The Christmas Dinner which inspired me to start the whole social enterprise was The Tope Chrismas Dinner in 2012.
Thanks to my dissenters. They have given me the opportunity to look at my darkest moments and shine a light into the language-less rooms of myself. When I received a letter about the fact I was being considered for the OBE the explosion of surprise caused an equally powerful vacuum. I spent the whole of the next day in bed with the curtains drawn. It was like Christmas Day used to be. The next day I said to myself ‘Stop’. And it did. So um… thanks to my therapist and thanks to all the people who have helped me over the years. A special thank you to Anna and the Chojnicki familiy. If I help others it is because I have been helped. In lieu of family the help and friendship of others has been my saving grace and means more to me than any anyone will ever know. Thank you.
(For anyone who thinks I shouldn’t have accepted the honour I suggest you read my memoir My name Is Why and tell that child.)