A Blog of Thanks.

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.)




84 thoughts on “A Blog of Thanks.

  1. A beautiful piece – gratitude is a gift. We all thank you though Lemn, for being you, staying you and in doing so making a difference x

  2. So poetic in your thank yous.
    Thank you Lemn for making your inner thoughts effect change for others.
    Huge respect, Kay x

  3. And I thank you. Your words and passion are like a crystal shining light into dark places. I’m so glad I found you, thank you. Xx

  4. So lovely,the truth you wrote today. So many people have a happier day because they share your space. I think you show incredible generosity x grace towards others. Your last sentence cracked me up…yay! Tell them. Go read..

  5. While all of this thanking business is going around, I’d like to thank you Lemn, for being in this world and making the lives of those whose hearts you touch through your writing and personality, just that bit nicer.
    You are an inspiration to me. I found you through a simple photo that you shared on Facebook. So once again, thank you for sharing that photo and leading me in the direction of something that I’d been missing out on. I’m so happy that you did that.
    Keep on keeping on . . . . . . .

  6. The beauty of elevating peoples lives is without doubt, and your s is. A life that has already made such a difference to so many people. Well deserved, ( and it really means the Order of Bloody Excellence)

  7. What a beautiful, deeply touching and complete you write, dear Lemn OBE !
    I belong to the countless unnamed that adore your poetry , did read your book, follow you, and know you as far as you allow them to.
    I strongly feel the need to thank YOU, for sharing your fabulous gifts so generously with the world. You and your work go straight to my heart, and make a huge difference to me. Thank you so very much, I love you more than you can ever know. Eva

      • Thanks for all your kind and moving storys. I am moved about you experience. I’m starting to write a biography of my life from the care homes and the rest of my life. It started off with me running away from my abusive mother and was placed in to care for my own safety. I was sent to oakies first to me that was my safe place and ended up in woodend till I was 16 then moved to a shared flat to let me know how to be okay to get a better idea of the outside life 2 months I got my first home. I have been reading up about these two care homes in a new light. Just wanted to say that things had changed for the better around 92-93 I have a lot to thank them for. Even though I was hard work and always running of cause I always had a the a dream my dad was coming for me lol
        I could never setal In school and was told I was stupid or thick. That was until the end of that year was going to woodend I was the first and only girl didn’t live at this time It was finally helping me. It wasn’t all bad credit to the teachers owe them to who is am now. But when I was moved to the home it all changed hated the place didn’t give a sh÷@#. Not sure what went wrong there. Sorry for the long essay just never knew there was all these years other people are now available tks and I will be made up if you read this post x

  8. So well deserved Lemn. How touching that having received this honour and recognition you think about everyone else around you. Keep on keeping on.

  9. Congratulations Lemn, you’re an inspiration and I love your work. We met many moons ago, in the late ’80s in Rotherham and you were just as full of verve and a love for life then as you are now. Keep your light shining bright brother.
    Love Baz x

  10. You deserve more! Lemn?! You are inspirational with extraordinary talents and skills. You successfully crossed over all the boundaries, shining across the horizons and beyond. God bless you.

  11. Many congratulations Lemn. You have not only inspired and taught young people, you have been an inspiration to oldies like me. I volunteered alongside many others at the first 5 Christmas dinners not for me in any way, but because they had to happen. You told us why.
    You made teachers like me aware of their duty to acknowledge ‘ looked after children’ and promote them as super heroes using literature. You are, in part, the reason I became an independent visitor for a young person in care, so that one person knows they can be themselves, no questions asked ( by the way, it works both ways ) .
    So thank you Lemn, for being the activist and writer that you are. You absolutely deserve the OBE. Is the next one a knighthood?

  12. Thank you Lemn for your wonderful poems. Thank you for your gut wrenching book which I finished this morning. As a mother and grandmother I found awful to read of the injustice you and other children suffered. Congratulations.

  13. Thank you Lemn. For the thinks and the feels. For the tears and the laughter. You are an inspiration. Phil.

  14. Wow, this is beautiful. It saddens me to think anyone would think you shouldn’t accept this. I respect people’s choice to accept or not, but nobody should tell anyone else what they should do in such circumstances. The system is not perfect, but when I saw your name in that honours list I was beaming and just so so happy, as I know so so many other people were…People you know and people way beyond that that you’ve touched not just with your words, as you have, but just by being you. Big up yourself and much love…the man you are and the little boy that’s always in there with you…you’ll both be getting that honour together. What a beautiful thing. Take care and congratulations again.

  15. What I love is how you connect with people Lemn. It’s one big fat thank you to everyone, sharing the love.
    Bless you x

  16. I’m listening to you reading your autobiography as I came across this blog. The way adults treat children still leaves me speechless. I wish you well in your life and you and the young Lemn deserve this honour.

  17. Who Knew, eh ? Who knew that this recognition would come your way ? We did. You deserve it. You inspire so very many ♥️

  18. And I’ll add my thanks – as a friend, and as one of the many teachers (way, way back in 1988!) into whose pupils’ lives and learning you brought yourself; your skill with words, your amazing ability to get them to see, and express, their own words into the aud and onto the page. As somebody unlikely EVER to get an Honour, I genuinely and with all my heart rejoice in yours. Xxxxx

  19. Your life journey is courageous, hard fought emotionally, kind, generous, inspirational. Thank you for the lights you shine.

  20. love your words. I love the fact they’ve created this moment. I look on, and it’s like I’m literally watching magic. And it makes me smile, and cry, and it makes me believe that specialness is special and can’t be denied – it will find a way, and I am just so delighted for you. So richly deserved xxxxxxxx

  21. Thank You for producing poems of grace and beauty in spite of the torments inflicted on you in childhood by the mindless bureaucracy of the social care system. You are loved, not by family but by us, your family in words. A well deserved honour.

  22. Congratulations, a very well deserved honour. Thank you for your inspiration and for continuing to be a ray of sunshine

  23. Wow, Lemn, bro, congratulations!!! So happy for you.
    God places the lonely in families;
    he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
    Psalm 68:6

  24. Dear Lemn, this is brilliant and well deserved! Your Desert Island Discs accompanied me on the journey to meet my biological father for the first time in 35 years. It was the best pep talk I could have had. .Congratulations and please keep spreading the joy.

  25. … From the other side of the Channel : A few days before : I had typed these words : May Lemn Sissay be protected by the ” higher something ” wherever he goes ,whatever he does or says

    ” it ” did it a few days later !! ! Magic ? I am so delighted that you came back to where you belong to .It is so good to think that a little Prince remains a little Prince .

  26. From across the Channel I sent this a few days before : May Lemn Sissay be protected by the Higher ” Something ” wherever he goes
    ” It ” did it a few days later …. Magic ? So happy that you are back to where you belong : A little Prince remains a Prince .

  27. Just read your book : My name is Why. I have a bad cataract but squinted to read some of text. Quite an amazing read. I read only biographies and autobiographies as I just live reading about people. Yours will stay with me for a long time. I have 2 adopted children, different races from my husband and me thankfully we live in a community of 60% black and haven’t really had issues. I so hope that by now your meetings with your Mum have been a way to heal and your life subsequently has been a rich one.
    Well done for putting it all down on paper.

  28. From the full golden moon amazingly glittering in the leaves at 10 p.m ,
    the bee swarms , the lightnings and thunders , all the stars passing by and waving ,the oceans and rivers , all united towards you and echoing : I suffered , fought and still do but I still love . A true human being remains a true human being .

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