Join acclaimed writer Lemn Sissay as we celebrate our 2021 Big Read, his powerful memoir, My Name is Why. Lemn will be in conversation with acclaimed author Kit de Waal. Lemn Sissay is a BAFTA-nominated, award-winning writer and broadcaster. He has authored collections of poetry and plays. His Landmark poems are visible in London, Manchester, Huddersfield and Addis Ababa. In 2021 Sissay was awarded an OBE for services to literature and in 2019 he was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize. He is Chancellor of the University of Manchester. He is British and Ethiopian.

At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in a foster family, followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian and he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth.

We wanted to bring Lemn Sissay’s powerful story of his quest for identity and belonging to a wider audience; to shine a light on his lived experience of the care system and the discrimination he experienced as a Black child growing up in a small post-industrial Northern town; and to celebrate the voice of the boy who grew up to become one of our most celebrated poets, the Chancellor of Manchester University and the recipient of an OBE in 2021.

In 2021 Durham Book Festival will work with Durham County Council’s Library Service to distribute 3,000 copies of My Name is Why to libraries, prisons and businesses, and to university staff and students across Durham.

Chaired by Kit de Waal.