Sissay was awarded the OBE in March 2021 for services to literature and charityHamish Brown with permission for Varsity

Internationally renowned poet, author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay will be coming to Cambridge this Sunday, for a one-night-only event dedicated to his memoir My Name is Why. In this interactive event, Sissay will read passages from his memoir and answer questions from the audience.

Published in 2019, My Name is Why reflects on his experiences growing up in care and explores the meanings of family, home and Britishness. It has received wide critical acclaim as a Sunday Times Bestseller, shortlisted for the Gordon Dunn Prize and listed as book of the year in a range of publications including The Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Times.

Commenting on the event, a spokesperson from Cambridge Arts Theatre said that they were looking forward to showcasing Lemn’s work in Cambridge.

“We’re excited to welcome the brilliant poet Lemn Sissay to our theatre for this one-night-only event.” she said. “His words have inspired and moved people up and down the country, and his memoir, My Name Is Why is a must-read. We’re pleased to have the opportunity to showcase Lemn’s important and timely work with Cambridge audiences.”

"He has created a powerful body of work out of the pivotal experiences of his youth"

Sissay is a British icon and Manchester institution. He was awarded the OBE in March 2021 for services to literature and charity, has been Chancellor of the University of Manchester since 2015 and was official poet of the 2012 London Olympics. His poetry collections include Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist, Listener and The Emperor’s Watchmaker. His poetry is public art in a number of locations, particularly in Manchester, where multiple murals of his work can be found throughout the city.

Sissay’s experiences of growing up in care and children’s homes, of discovering his legal name and origins were different to the narrative given to him as a child, and trying to reconnect with his birth family, have shaped his life and work up to the present. He has created a powerful body of work out of the pivotal experiences of his youth. My Name is Why is the culmination of a lifetime of meditation on the failures of the British care system, played out through his career, with his 1995 documentary Internal Flight focusing on his life and 2005 drama Something Dark focusing on his search for his family.

"Sissay’s memoir reflects the gathering of this lifetime’s worth of experiences"

With such a large portion of Sissay’s life focused towards the process of uncovering, first in the process of trying to find his birth mother, and his 34-year campaign to gain access to his care records from Wigan council, his responses to this have been profound and original. In 2015 his records were finally returned to him, culminating in a boundary breaking theatre show at the Royal Court in London, in which Sissay reacted live on stage to his psychologist’s report on the mental effects of his time in the care system. Sissay’s memoir, then, reflects the gathering of this lifetime’s worth of experiences, compelling and moving, as he questions the institutions that raised him.


Mountain View

Green The Art and Heart of Leonardo da Vinci

As he wonders in the preface of his book, ‘How does a government steal a child and then imprison him? How does it keep it a secret?’

Three years on from publication, the unique opportunity to watch the renowned poet, playwright and broadcaster revisit his work is not an opportunity to be missed.

The event will take place at Cambridge Arts Theatre on Sunday 22nd May at 7:30pm