UK author defies the odds

By Tara Whitsed

Audience members are set to be moved by the powerful story of United Kingdom author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay in Shepparton tomorrow.

The charismatic speaker, poet, rights advocate and university chancellor will speak at a free event, brought to the region by the Bendigo Writers Festival.

Festival director Rosemary Sorensen said it was decided the event would tour regionally and the interest from Shepparton in the lead-up to the event had been fantastic.

‘‘This man is a world-class performer,’’ she said.

‘‘In the UK he is a sought-after public speaker... he is going to see a part of the world that few international guests get to see.’’

Mr Sissay will tell his remarkable story from being an abused child in care to defying the odds and becoming one of the UK’s best-known public poets.

He has since fought long and hard for the rights of children in care.

Mr Sissay was commissioned to create landmark poetry installations in prominent places including London’s Festival Hall and Olympic Park.

He is an associate artist at London’s Southbank Centre, patron of The Letterbox Club and The Reader Organisation, ambassador for The Children’s Reading Fund, trustee of Forward Arts Foundation and inaugural trustee of World Book Night, and an honorary Doctor of Letters.

He was installed as Chancellor of the University of Manchester in 2015, in recognition of his advocacy and literacy work.

Mr Sissay’s award-winning play Something Dark, directed by John McGrath, has been performed throughout the world and his stage adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s novel Refugee Boy at West Yorkshire Playhouse toured Britain in 2014. A BBC television documentary, Internal Flight, and a radio documentary, Child of the State, were both broadcast about his life and his Ted Talk has close to a million views.

Tomorrow’s event is part of the Bendigo Writers Festival and is sponsored by the City of Greater Bendigo.

Lemn Sissay will speak at the free event tomorrow, August 8, from 7pm to 8pm at La Trobe University, Fryers St, Shepparton.