I first met Lemn Sissay in 1990. He was performing his poetry at a pub near Manchester Polytechnic and I was reviewing him in my new role as Editor of the student magazine, PULP.
I was blown away so much that I put him on the front cover of my first issue wearing a Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” shirt. In our in-depth interview we hit it off so well that we are still great friends today, 25 years later.
Lemn is also Godfather to my son Joe and was Best Man at my wedding. He’s a total genius, wonderful soul and a very inspiring person who grew up in foster care and care homes in Wigan after he was effectively “stolen” from his mother by the state and given the name Norman by a social worker (who named him after himself). Once he escaped to Manchester at the age of 16, he started ferociously writing and performing blistering poetry which has taken him all over the world and got him an MBE.
Last month he told me he was up for election against the odious Peter Mandleson for the post of Chancellor of the University of Manchester. I must admit, I thought he stood no chance and was in the race as a token gesture, even though the idea of him becoming Chancellor was delicious.
But – he did it! He became Chancellor, which I think is incredible, forward-thinking and will be amazing for the University.
Here’s the video that helped him towards this towering achievement:
And here’s the interview I did with Lemn in a London pub a while ago:
Lemn is living proof that anything is possible. Yes, he’s amazingly talented, but so are you. Never forget it.