Posted on behalf of Lemn Sissay by Rosie Goldsmith. On July 10th Lemn introduced London Literature Festival’s ‘Access All Areas’ event with Benjamin Zephaniah.
‘Wild Horses in the Foyer’ by Lemn Sisay
Other than unformed notes I hadn’t yet written the introduction to Benjamin Zephaniah for his appearance at Queen Elizabeth Hall. But the wild horses were gathering on the horizon.
In flight a sliver of cold steel has slipped into my neck. I arrive home un-rested after a five thousand mile overnight flight from South Africa. I unpacked and balanced the South African masks upon their plinths around our home and then cycled to Southbank Centre.
This is what I missed when away. I park the bike in the riverside rooms where the artist in residence are based and within seconds a camera crew and interviewer are bungling themselves through the door. I’d scheduled an interview at 3.15pm for a new initiative called LitUp Singapore.
I can hear the thunder of their gallop. My notes for the intro are rustling. The interview goes as well as interviews do. And between five and six pm I call in the horses and they leave a trail of sentences. I then print them. I print the Benjamin Zephaniah introduction.
At seven pm I meet Benjamin back stage who is sat comfortably with Rachel Holmes in the Green Room. By seven thirty-five Benjamin saunters on stage to rapturous applause. He smiles “next time I introduce a new girlfriend to my mum Lemn…Will you write the introduction?” he tells me. He’s happy. I’m proud and he delivers a blinding set. Great to watch a master at work.
I pop up to the artists’ hang out in the RFH where I meet Tom Priestley, the son of the late JB Priestley whose book ‘An English Journey’ had just had its relaunch in The Purcell Room. I imagine if JB Priestley were alive he would’ve met with Benjamin to say ‘hi’. Benjamin would have joked with Priestley about his pipe-smoking and Priestley would have made some joke about weed. They would have compared notes about their respective events. An English Journey indeed.
I am exhausted but I love it. At 11pm I get on my bike, switch on the lights and cycle off and over Waterloo bridge, round Aldwych, up Holborn, through Islington onwards, onwards to Dalston into Hackney and finally home.