London 2012 Olympics official poet awarded Freedom of the City of London

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London 2012 Olympics official poet awarded Freedom of the City of London

The London 2012 Olympics left a lasting impression on the capital, but it wasn’t just the medal winners out on the track helping to inspire London.

Lemn Sissay OBE – official poet of the London 2012 Olympics – has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London.

The writer and broadcaster came to national recognition in 1988 at the age of 21 with his second book of poetry Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist, and is the recipient of countless awards.

His memoir My Name is Why topped the Sunday Times Bestsellers List, and his poetry as public art is displayed across London, from the Southbank Centre, Waterloo, to Fen Court in the City.

Gilt of Cain was unveiled by Bishop Tutu in commemoration of the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 2007.

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Sissay said: “I am over the moon to be awarded the Freedom of the City of London.

“It gives me great joy to be recognised by the great city in which I live in and I love, and which has been such an inspiration to me. It all feels like a wonderful dream, or from a storybook.”

Sissay is also a patron of the Letterbox Club who give colourful parcels of books, maths games, stationery and other high-quality materials to young people in care.

He is founding Trustee of the Gold from the Stone Foundation, which provides Christmas Dinners for young adults who have been in care.

Sissay was appointed fellow of the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury in 2014.

In 2019 he was awarded the renowned PEN Pinter Prize, which was established in memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter. In 2021 he became visiting fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge.

The most recent documentaries about his life include Imagine with Alan Yentob, and My Life at Christmas with Sally Phillips which was broadcast last month.

He was awarded an OBE in 2021 for services to literature and charity.

City of London Corporation Policy Chairman, Chris Hayward, said: “We are delighted that Lemn has been awarded the Freedom of the City.

“It is richly deserved and recognises his extraordinary and unique contributions to literature and charity.”

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, also commended Sissay’s “compelling contribution to the capital.”

“We are delighted to award Lemn his Freedom in recognition of his inspirational work.”

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