Acclaimed poet and playwright Lemn Sissay back in Byron Bay

7 November 2019 by Sam Smith

Lemn Sissay will unleash his powerful voice once again in Byron Bay with a performance and conversation about his memoir My Name is Why (winner of the 2019 PEN Pinter prize), on Saturday 16 November at 6pm at Elements of Byron Resort.

Writer Maureen Freely, one of the 2019 PEN Pinter prize judges, said: ‘In his every work, Lemn Sissay returns to the underworld he inhabited as an unclaimed child. From his sorrows, he forges beautiful words and a thousand reasons to live and love.’

Displaced at birth from his Ethopian mother, Sissay passionately believes if you dig a hole in the heart of a child and bury an untruth, it will eventually find its way out. He describes a care system that did its best to destroy him, first in a dysfunctional foster home and then in dystopian institutions, illustrating how the most vulnerable are left at the mercy of the heartless and careless, ‘disremembered,’ disbelieved’ and ‘disappeared.’

Sissay introduces his memoir by outlining his 34 year campaign to retrieve his Wigan Council records, tracing the most brutal of beginnings. He had no family, no photos, no letters and his entire history was contained in the files.  They uncovered years of betrayal, secrets, lies, beatings and incarceration.

Sissay inspirationally believes forgiveness is the most important thing you can offer yourself, rather than building a life around the thing you believe to be the worst thing that happened in your life.

He intelligently examines societal prejudice against mothers and children, the unquestioned power of racism and sexism, but finds hope in the redemptive power of creativity and the beauty he found through his gift for words.

The event will include a performance by Sissay, followed by an in-conversation with Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University, Adam Shoemaker. Find inspiring answers to some of life’s most important ‘why’s’ from this international Festival-favourite.

Don’t miss your chance to see Lemn’s spellbinding performance in this unmissable event!

6pm, Saturday 16 November at Elements of Byron Resort. Tickets from $30 via or call 02 6685 5115.

Sam Smith