The packed St George’s Hall audience was treated to a scintillating performance by poet, playwright and broadcaster Lemn Sissay last night, an event which will not be easily forgotten by those who attended.

Lemn opened the evening by discussing an earlier chance meeting with a Bewdley riverside resident who engaged him about fishing and riverside life in general. Using a heady mix of humour and serious philosophical comment he somehow managed to transform this potentially mundane encounter into a treatise on how we live our lives, making the ordinary appear extraordinary.

Moving on to a dramatic reading of his play, ‘Something Dark’, he told the moving and challenging story of his early life in foster care and children’s homes in the north west. Without sentimentality or self pity he plunged the depths of his own feelings about his often tragic childhood experiences and took the transfixed audience every step of the way with him. After almost ninety minutes on stage he concluded his play reading with a profound and pregnant silence which erupted into warm and rapturous applause from the audience, stunned by the intensity of his performance.

After the break Lemn returned to the stage for a Q and A session that became so much more as he ‘riffed’ on subjects close to his heart, creating an intimate atmosphere in which honest views were shared and explored. Running well over the allotted time he called a halt to the discussion and received a well-deserved standing ovation from an inspired and grateful crowd. He was so delighted with this magnificent return to the stage, post Covid, that he actually took photos of the audience himself to mark the occasion!

The queue for signed books snaked around the cafe for 45 minutes as people took the opportunity to thank him and conversations around the room focused on how quickly the Festival could book the return of Lemn Sissay in the future.

Bewdley Festival is a delightful mix of light and shade in terms of the performers and artists it attracts but Lemn Sissay’s evening will perhaps go down as the night it became an arts festival in its truest sense. Thank you Lemn for the inspiration.