An Evening of Joyful Verse in Praise of Dyslexia and Diversity

Lemn Sissay (left ) together with Sam Rapp celebrate Diversity and Dyslexia through the Spoken Word

They certainly were amazing. All the writers who performed at the ‘Evening of Spoken Word’ at the Glass Box Theatre in Gillingham on 16th October 2019. Headlining the group of talented artists was the outstanding Lemn Sissay MBE, the award winning poet, playwright, broadcaster and wonderful raconteur.

The event celebrated and raised awareness of Dyslexia and Diversity in Kent. It is a testament to Sissay’s generosity of spirit and humility that he accepted the invitation from the Dyslexia House Association in Medway.  During the evening of live readings of poetry and prose, written and performed by local artists, Sissay shared his wit and engaging reflections on his recently published memoir called ‘My Name is Why’.

Though Sissay is a literary giant who has won many accolades, including being appointed the official Poet of the 2012 London Olympics, winning the PEN Pinter prize, receiving an MBE for his services to literature and becoming the Chancellor of Manchester University, the story of his start in life is distressing. At an early age, he was put in the care of a white foster family who decided to return him to institutionalised home, at the age of 12, without further contact.  Sissay talks of the all-encompassing importance of family, made more poignant as he grew up without one.

Amid readings of poetry and prose, taken from his book and threads of spontaneous conversations about his childhood in a ‘dysfunctional’ white family, Sissay painted the picture of his everyday trials as a child in care with sharp observations of family and struggles with social services.

Yet the evening was not sombre, due to Lemn Sissay’s entertaining delivery and the uplifting messages of the other performers.

Sam Rapp – The Dyslexic Poet and main organiser of the event, offered a series of quirky, upbeat poems highlighting her years of overcoming the stigma attached to being dyslexic. Often labelled ‘stupid and lazy’ at school, it was not until she met someone who understood her needs and mentored her to become a successful lawyer, published author and playwright, that she could truly believe in ‘amazing’ her abilities.

In much the same vein, SM Jenkin, a regular on the Kent Poetry scene gave a triumphant rendition of her poem ‘Victory,’ along with audience participation. S M Jenkin‘s poem celebrated the many everyday triumphs, like getting out of bed, by people living with mental health issues.

Other performers worth noting were Maggie Harris, Guyanese writer living in Kent. Her poems were lyrical and evocative of other Caribbean worlds. The Medway Little Youth Performers aged 11 -18 and Imogen Ledger aged 14 delighted the audience with their way with words and thoughtful performances.

Overall, it was a great night of joyful verse in praise of Dyslexia and Diversity and the indomitable human spirit to overcome.

For more about the Medway Dyslexia House Association contact:

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