Official poet of the London 2012 Olympics receives Freedom of the City of London

Internationally-renowned writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay OBE – an official poet of the London 2012 Olympics – has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London at a ceremony today.

Sissay, who came to national recognition in 1988 at the age of 21 with his second book of poetry, “Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist”, has won numerous awards

His memoir “My Name is Why” topped the Sunday Times Bestsellers List.

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.

Sissay is 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.

Lemn 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”

 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, said:

 “Lemn is an internationally-renowned writer and broadcaster and this award celebrates his compelling contribution to the capital.

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

One of the City of London’s ancient traditions, the Freedom is believed to have begun in 1237 and enabled recipients, who were also required to join a Livery Company, to carry out their trade.

As well as being nominated for, or applying for, the Freedom, it is also offered by the City of London Corporation to individuals as a way of paying tribute to their outstanding contribution to London or public life, or to celebrate a very significant achievement.

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.