News / The Diaspora

Lemn Sissay runs for chancellor of University of Manchester

By BEREKET DEREJE    MAY 19, 2015

Lemn Sissay speaking at the inaugural of his landmark poem, “Let There Be Peace”, which is prominently displayed on the walls of University of Huddersfield, October 3, 2014. (Courtesy)

Lemn Sissay speaking at the inaugural of his landmark poem, “Let There Be Peace”, which is prominently displayed at the walls of University of Huddersfield, October 3, 2014. (Courtesy)

L

emn Sissay, the award-wining British author of Ethiopian origin, is among three candidates nominated for the office of Chancellor at the University of Manchester, the university’s Secretary & Chief Operating Officer announced late April.

The election of the Chancellor — whose term of office commences on August 1 — will take place via postal and online ballot set to open on Tuesday, May 26.

“Community Officer Ellen McLaughlin at University of Manchester  Students Union requested I run for Chancellor,” said Sissay. “A door opens. It feels right.”

Born in Lancashire, England in 1967, Sissay was given up for fostering by his Ethiopian mother, and was brought up by adoptive parents before they put him back into foster care at the age of 11. Upon leaving the care system, he was given his birth certificate and a letter from his files dated 1968 — written by his mother to the Social Services, pleading for his return. After a long search, at age 21, he met his birth mother, who at the time was working for the UN in the Gambia.

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‘Guilt of Cain’, a landmark poem written by Lemn Sissay in the city of London, which was unveiled by Bishop Desmond Tutu in 2008.

(London Remembers)

Today, the 47 year-old Sissay is a celebrated literary figure in Britain, an MBE for services to literature, and one of the first poets commissioned to write for the 2012 London Olympics. His landmark poems are also installed throughout Manchester and London.

Inside the University of Manchester, his poem “Let There be Peace” stands high on the walls at University Place on Oxford Road, and thousands of citizens in Manchester read his other landmark poems every day. Just two months ago, he gave the keynote speech to one thousand educationalists and lecturers at The Manchester College Conference. He is also slated to receive an honorary doctorate from the same university for services to the arts, in October.

But he says his involvement in the university’s activities were not a preplanned route for the chancellorship. “None of these events were designed to connect with the candidacy but they do. They connect to the time and the place.”

“It is symbolic of my own journey of learning. I am the boy who walked barefoot to Manchester from a village in Lancashire. I came to learn and to grow and the learning and growing hasn’t stopped. It has given me wings – as a writer and artist I travel the world amongst scientists and royalty, fighters and peacemakers, service workers and academics. I want to be Chancellor to inspire and be inspired.”

Established in 1824, the University of Manchester is a large research university situated in the city of Manchester, England. Its Chancellor is the figurehead and ambassador who works with the President and other senior officers to promote the University’s achievements in regional, national and international levels.

According to the university’s statement, the election is open for vote to members of the Alumni Association, members of the General Assembly and those who hold paid superannuable appointments in the University.

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