Words from our Canterbury Laureate, Lemn Sissay

It’s thirty years since first I visited Canterbury and read poems at Rutherford College. A lecturer called Fred D’Aguiar who is now a lecturer at Yale University in USA invited me and the first time I performed for wise words festival was in July 2012. I’ve performed every year since then and I’ve been lucky enough to see Wise Words become a fixture of the nations literary calendar. I am honoured to have been announced Canterbury Laureate in May 2017.

It’s been a busy and inspiring two hundred and ten days as Laureate. I am really proud of Warrior Poets a Canterbury project that will travel outside of Canterbury in 2018.

There was the unforgettable Forgiveness Project event at Marlowe Theatre. A boy who killed the son of a mother met her as a man on stage. They both spoke their stories. There’s been radio and TV interviews to promote Canterbury and the Laureateship.

I have been getting to know the City and the community. Some of the highlights include a tour of the old Poor Priests Hospital that has now become The Marlowe Kit. It holds a fascinating past that includes, we think, being a home to the Bridwell Boys. I also had the opportunity to meet some of the City’s passionate historians and had tea with the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral.

The Cathedral is currently going through a vast conservation project. A huge scaffolding construction built inside, has opened up even more stunning views of the beautiful building. Scaffolders have built a 53 metre long safety deck high above the Cathedral Nave as a platform both for the Cathedral’s conservation team to work from and to catch any dislodged stone and plaster. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Cathedral ceiling from this beautiful deck and to see the whole city from the roof of the Cathedral.

Performing my play Something Dark at The Marlowe (with a Q and A) was a highlight. This year Something Dark will be on The National Curriculum as a choice text.

Interviewing Sophie Willen as part of an in-conversation series was so moving Sophie wept.

But most inspiring of all was The Canterbury Christmas Dinner. The idea is to provide a scrumptious Christmas Dinner for young care leavers of Canterbury and Kent on Christmas Day. We put out a call if anyone would be interested in helping to make it happen.

Between then and Christmas Day the residents found a venue, a chef, presents, volunteers, guests, food and transport for a Christmas day Dinner that no guest would ever forget. It worked. They did it. Have a look at their Facebook page HERE

The Canterbury Residents Association, local businesses, individuals from all walks of Canterbury life made it happen.  I feel that I am part of a dynamic community that can make things happen and it’s an honour to serve. I’m really looking forward to 2018.

To keep up to date with what I am up to in Canterbury but things, people and places that I come across on my travels that I think might be relevant or interest the Canterbury Community, follow my Facebook Page HERE