The Christmas Dinner project
863. Lemn Sissay
Lemn Sissay MBE, Chancellor of the University of Manchester and honoured by the Queen for his services to literature, founded ‘The Christmas Dinner’, an initiative for young people between the ages of 18 and 25, who have been looked after by local authorities.
Lemn, inspired by his own experience of leaving care and feeling isolated at Christmas, decided to create an inclusive festive event, launching the project in Manchester in 2013. It has since expanded across England, catering for over 1,000 care leavers and their children in 11 locations: Manchester, Hackney, Leeds, Oxford, Wirral, Stockport, Islington, Richmond, Canterbury, Sheffield, and Birmingham. Lemn fundraises £5,000 for each Christmas dinner, and he has inspired over 200 professional creatives and care workers to come together in their communities to plan each event, encouraging local people to donate venues, food and gifts for the guests.
In a personal letter to Lemn, Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“By founding ‘The Christmas Dinner’ project, you have created a successful and sustainable model which is making a real difference for hundreds of young care leavers who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. By working with communities across the UK, you are inspiring people to volunteer for an inclusive annual event at a time of year which is about coming together.”
Photo: Hamish Brown