Poet and children’s rights campaigner Lemn Sissay MBE, created The Christmas Dinner in Manchester in 2013. A Christmas day dinner for care leavers aged between 18 and 25, The Christmas Dinner is not an organisation, not a charity, but more of a ‘call to alms’: a challenge to the community to care for the care leaver on Christmas day.
Brought up in care himself, Lemn understood the complicated feelings that those in care felt about the festive season. "Christmas is a reminder of everything they never had."
A Crowdfunder campaign and social media mobilised a local team of donors, artists, volunteers and professional care workers to plan and host The Christmas Dinner, complete with roast dinner, crackers and presents. And most importantly, to create the right environment for young people brought up in care: "a lifesaving experience of warmth in abundance".
Publishing a free ‘How-to’ guide on Lemn’s website meant that The Christmas Dinner community could grow beyond its flagship city. This year, events will be hosted in Norwich, London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Oxford.
Installed as Chancellor of Manchester University in 2015, Lemn also gives his name to The Lemn Sissay PhD Scholarship for Care Leavers at Huddersfield University. The courage of Lemn’s convictions and the way he expresses them makes him unique. A line from his poem Inspire and be Inspired sums up the true driving force of The Christmas Dinner, “the strength of unassailable us”.