We are very excited to announce that the poet Lemn Sissay will be delivering our 2016 Annual Lecture, on the subject of The Quality of Mercy – anger, forgiveness and making peace with the past. He will be talking about how the rejection and isolation he experienced in foster care has shaped him as an artist, and how telling his story saved him from it.
Lemn will be joined by Mathew Shurka, whose relationship with his father broke down completely from the age of 16 when his father took him to a licensed therapist who claimed he could make gay people straight; and Rachel Kelly a writer, mother and mental health activist whose memoir, Black Rainbow, was a Sunday Times bestseller.
The event will be chaired by writer and campaigner, Melissa Benn.
This is our first Annual Lecture that reflects The Forgiveness Project’s broader vision to explore not just the extremes of forgiveness but also the kind of unresolved hurts that fester within families and across generations.
Lemn Sissay MBE is the author of several books of poetry alongside articles, records, public art, and plays. His latest book Gold from the Stone was published in August 2016. He was the official poet for the London Olympics and for The FA Cup 2015. His Landmark Poems are installed throughout Manchester and London in venues such as The Royal Festival Hall and The Olympic Park with Archbishop Desmond Tutu unveiling his poem Gilt of Cain. He is a regular contributor to radio and TV and a prolific speaker inspiring audiences on a weekly basis across the globe. Lemn’s focus will be on resolving the pain of a traumatic childhood.
Mathew Shurka‘s relationship with his father broke down completely from the age of 16 when his father took him to a licensed therapist who claimed he could make gay people straight. After years of trauma, and estrangement from his family, Mathew sought to shift and reconcile their relationship. Today Mathew is a US national spokesperson and globally recognised activist working to end ‘conversion therapy.’ He serves as an advisory member for the committee of the #BornPerfect campaign.
Rachel Kelly is a writer, mother and mental health activist whose memoir about using poetry to overcome the abyss of depression Black Rainbow was a Sunday Times bestseller. Her latest book is Walking on Sunshine: 52 Small Steps to Happiness. She is an ambassador for the mental health charities Sane and Young Minds and runs workshops on resilience and wellbeing.
Melissa Benn writes regularly for the Guardian and other publications on a range of social issues, including education. She is a founder of the Local Schools Network, and chair of Comprehensive Future. Her books include School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education; One of Us; and What Should We Tell Our Daughters? The Pleasures and Pressures of Growing Up Female. She is co-author of Debunking the Seven Myths of Education.