Lovely to report that I’m listening to my old friend Lemn Sissay on BBC Radio Manchester being interviewed by Alan Beswick about the fact that’s he’s been awarded an MBE! Regular readers of this blog will know that Lemn is not only an inspiration to me, but also thousands of other people, especially children – he has spent thousands and thousands of unreported hours doing workshops and talks for kids all over the world. In fact, when we used to knock about in Manchester it always amazed me how many bouncers we’d bump into who suddenly drop their guard and say stuff like “Fuck me, it’s Lemn Sissay!”, then give him a big, star-struck hug and spend 20 minutes telling him how much he inspired them in a talk he did at their school years before (much to the chagrin of the other revelers in the queue desperate to get into whatever house of ill repute we were attempting to enter).
Apart from being Best Man at our wedding (the poem he wrote and read at the ceremony “Heart Garden”, is one of my most treasured memories and possessions), he is also Godfather (in a non-religious type way, if that’s possible:-) to my son. Here they are just after he was born:
You can get further background on Lemn here, and you can get his work from Amazon here:
His second published book was “Rebel without Applause”. As he said on Alan Beswick’s show this morning, after Alan chastised him for moving from Manchester to London, he’s now a “Rebel with a baguette”. I can’t publish what he said MBE stands for. “Might Be Ethiopian” was my suggestion – not as funny as his.
One project Lemn has created that is really exciting is the GPS (Global Poetry System), a typically brilliant idea that is a user generated world map of poetry. Watch the video about it here:
We’ve often chatted about the use of poetry in the commercial world over the past 20 years. A couple of things we did together that I’m very proud of include the famous poem on the wall of Hardy’s Well pub on the busiest bus route in Europe on Wilmslow Road heralding the entrance to Rusholme from the South in Manchester. I pulled that together along with Toby Hadoke and the then landlord of the pub, Andy, back when there was a little comedy club in the back room.
That was back in 95/96 – and it’s still there!
The other thing was that when I won a sales promotion contract with Stagecoach to promote their weekly Megarider ticket (with the company I set up in 2001 that’s still going strong, AIM Solutions) I convinced them to them to do the whole thing around Lemn and use his poems in the promotional material.
We got Lemn on the side of hundreds of buses lying down “Sex and the City” style, his face on millions of tickets and posters inside the buses with his poetry all over them. I’ll never forget the meeting with Stagecoaches’ management when I proposed it. One of them said “I don’t want to do it if he’s associated with drugs”. Oh, racism. What a bizarre and stupid thing you are.
Lemn Sissay. Friend. Brother. Member of the British Fucking Empire!