An award-winning playwright and popular broadcaster in the UK, as well as the author of five poetry books, Lemn Sissay has a way with words.

Why you should listen

Lemn Sissay wears many hats as a writer and performer.

The author of five poetry collections, Sissay's poems dot the London landscape and are etched into major landmarks, from the site of the 2012 Summer Olympics to The Royal Festival Hall. In 2006, Desmond Tutu unveiled his sculpture poem "Gilt of Cain," located near Fenchurch Street Station. Currently an associate artist at Southbank Centre and patron of the Letterbox Club, Sissay was named the official poet of the London 2012 Olympics. His poetry art has also been displayed at The Royal Academy.

Sissay is perhaps best known for his work for the BBC, which shines a spotlight on his upbringing as a foster child in the UK. In 1995, he shared his story in the BBC documentary Internal Flight and his BBC radio documentary Child of the State was nominated for a 2010 Sony Award. His play Something Dark charts his quest to find his family. After a long search, he located his birth mom in Gambia and has since come to know the rest of his family.

What others say

“He’s a lyrical genius that’s causing a storm across the country.” — – The Voice

Lemn Sissay’s TED talks

Lemn Sissay on the TED Blog

Culture

Growing up a child of the state: Lemn Sissay tells much more of his story

October 24, 2012

Harry Potter, Pip of Great Expectations, Superman, Cinderella, Lisbeth Salander, Batman, Jane Eyre, Matilda, Moses, Luke Skywalker, Oliver Twist, Celie of The Color Purple. As Lemn Sissay points out in this powerful talk from TEDxHousesofParliament, literature and popular culture is rife with characters who grew up without their biological parents. “Writers seem to know that […]

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Quotes from Lemn Sissay

Looked after children — fostered, adopted or orphaned — [often] grow into their adult lives in fear of speaking of their background, as if it may somehow weaken their standing in the foreground.
Lemn Sissay
TEDxHousesofParliament 2012 • 524K views Oct 2012
Courageous, Inspiring
You can define how strong a democracy is by how its government treats … the child of the state.
Lemn Sissay
TEDxHousesofParliament 2012 • 524K views Oct 2012
Courageous, Inspiring
Dysfunction is a true reaction to untruth.
Lemn Sissay
TEDxHousesofParliament 2012 • 524K views Oct 2012
Courageous, Inspiring