Monday, October 6, 2014

Poet Lemn Sissay unveils giant public poem at the University of Huddersfield as a plea for peace

Lemn Sissay reads his poem.
The work will be a permanent installation at the creative arts building and is the latest site in the world to exhibit the poem
A giant public poem for peace installation will bring a sense of harmony to the town after it joined the Huddersfield skyline.

The giant 40 feet high, 30 feet wide and 100 feet in the sky masterpiece was created by esteemed poet and playwright, Lemn Sissay MBE, and now has pride of place at the University of Huddersfield’s creative arts building, where thousands of people pass each day.

A rousing and impassioned plea for a stop to war, the permanent artwork, called Let There Be Peace, was created against a backdrop of World War One commemorations and present-day conflicts taking place in the Middle East and combines humour with unusual imagery and passionate feelings.

Yesterday Lemn joined students to unveil the work, before taking part in an engaging seminar to unleash students’ own creative poetic thoughts.


It is the latest installation of the poem across the country, which is also on show at the University of Manchester and is due to go on display at the headquarters of the British Council in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next year.

He said: “My ambition is to have the peace poem tattooed into the skin of the world- Why have small ambitions?”

Lemn has an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Huddersfield, where he has also delivered numerous guest lectures, and has backed a scholarship that enables gifted young people who were brought up in the care system, like himself, to undertake PhD research.

He is also an associate artist at Southbank Centre, patron of The Letterbox Club and The Reader Organisation, ambassador for The Children’s Reading Fund, trustee of Forward Arts Foundation and inaugural trustee of World Book Night.

During his career he has written a series of books of poetry alongside articles, records, broadcasts, public art, commissions and plays and was the first poet commissioned to write for London Olympics.

His landmark poems are installed throughout Manchester in places such as Shudehill Bus Station and Wilmslow Road as well as in London, where they can be seen in the Royal Festival Hall, the Olympic Park and near Fenchurch St Station, where his work was unveiled by bishop Desmond Tutu.
Lemn Sissay pictured with university vice chancellor Prof Bob Cryan and the mayor and mayoress of Kirklees, Clr Ken Smith and Christine Smith.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, Professor Bob Cryan CBE, was delighted that the poem is now a feature of the campus.

He said: “Our association with Lemn has been really fruitful. He is so life-affirming, and a fantastic writer.

“This compassionate poem is typical of the man because it makes you smile and think deeply at the same time. Its message will now filter into the minds of generations of Huddersfield students.”




Let There Be Peace by Lemn Sissay


Let there be peace

So frowns fly away like albatross

And skeletons foxtrot from cupboards,

So war correspondents become travel show presenters

And magpies bring back lost property,

Children, engagement rings, broken things.


Let there be peace

So storms can go out to sea to be

Angry and return to me calm,

So the broken can rise up and dance in the hospitals.

Let the aged Ethiopian man in the grey block of flats

Peer through his window and see Addis before him,

So his thrilled outstretched arms become frames

For his dreams.


Let there be peace

Let tears evaporate to form clouds, cleanse themselves

And fall into reservoirs of drinking water.

Let harsh memories burst into fireworks that melt

In the dark pupils of a child’s eyes

And disappear like shoals of silver darting fish,

And let the waves reach the shore with a

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

examiner.co.uk