Lemn Sissay is a poet. He is the chancellor of Manchester University, he has an MBE. But perhaps most importantly he grew up in care and I expect it is this that has influenced and shaped his life, and it is this that motivates him to put on this incredible event.
I don’t know Lemn personally but I’ve been privileged enough to be ever so slightly involved in an amazing project he has been running for the last few years.
He has put on a Christmas Dinner for care leavers. To understand what that means and why such an event is needed, just close your eyes, rid yourself of all family memories and imagine for one minute you have no family. No Family to go back to, the idea of going home for Christmas is alien. I’m 35 but every single year (except for the one spent in Kuala Lumpur Airport, and the one spent in a very strange restaurant in Bermuda, oh and the one where the cows in Auckland came to listen to the brass band playing carols on the veranda) I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to go home for Christmas. And even those ones abroad have been spent visiting friends or travelling with family.
Now, not all of us want to go home for Christmas, worse sometimes we have to go to the in-laws, but all this is a familiar comfort and we wouldn’t be without it. But what do you do if you’ve never had that. Perhaps you grew up with various foster families or in an institution – what on earth do you do on Christmas Day and who cooks your turkey and stuffing?
Well this year in Manchester, Leeds and Hackney at least, there is a huge family of volunteers putting on a fabulous Christmas dinner at exclusive locations (not some chilly dank scout hut that’s been given up for free) for young adults in exactly this scenario.
Lemn is friends with Sally (Abbott), she lives down the road from me. Sally is a writer, you may have seen her name crawling up the credits of Eastenders, Casualty, and most recently The Coroner. – BBC1’s new original daytime drama of choice, and many more.
Sally has been helping Lemn collate Christmas Greetings from those in TV & Soap land. The messages will be played at the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.
Now Sally is a script writer and Lemn is a poet. What does a script writer and a poet do with this footage? Well its obvious of course. I edit it, turn it into a little film of Christmas joy. No messages from men on the moon, no fancy graphics, no mogs, nothing too flashy. Just a simple editing job and one I’m very happy to have been part of.
If you think you’d like to be involved in organising or donating towards a Christmas Dinner next year then get in touch with Lemn now!