In recognition of John Lennon as a former student at the University’s School of Art and to raise the profile of care leavers in society, LJMU is holding a free public event featuring two of the country’s leading performing artists.
John Lennon, who was raised by his Aunt Mimi from the age of five until his late teens, attended the University’s School of Art in 1957, and the John Lennon Art and Design Building, named in his honour, is home to today’s LJMU art and design students. In collaboration with Yoko Ono, the University also established the John Lennon Imagine Awards, which offer financial and practical support to students who have been in care or become estranged from their families.
On Saturday, March 11, the University is ensuring John’s legacy lives on with a unique event featuring two successful performing artists – the well-known poets and playwrights Lemn Sissay MBE and Louise Wallwein. Lemn and Louise both have first-hand experience of the difficulties faced by care leavers and young people who are estranged from their families as they themselves grew up in care. Statistics show that care leavers are more likely to become homeless or find themselves in the criminal justice system than attend university, as they often face greater challenges than other young people in acquiring qualifications and employment skills. Both artists are keen to help improve these statistics by raising awareness of opportunities in higher education, routes into university and sources of support.
Lemn, who is Chancellor of the University of Manchester and Associate Artist at the Southbank Centre, has written plays for stage and BBC radio, as well as writing for the 2012 London Olympics. He has also performed poetry throughout the world, and in 2010 he received an MBE for Services to Literature. He is renowned for championing care leavers and their contribution to society and will be delivering the keynote speech at the event, held at the John Lennon Art and Design Building, at 11am.
Louise will perform her one-woman show, ‘Glue’, at the venue at 2pm. Mixing monologue, live art and a sound score, ‘Glue’ tells Louise’s true life story, documenting her first two meetings with her birth mother, three decades after being put up for adoption. The audience is invited to share a very private first reunion, but also the subsequent, more public, second meeting. Louise also grew up in care from the age of nine and ‘Glue’ reveals the contrast between both her fierce independence and emotional vulnerability. This part of the event is suitable for over 16s only.
Commenting on taking part in the event, Lemn said: “I have always been determined to help more fellow care leavers into education, and LJMU clearly recognises the importance of this encouragement and engagement too. It’s important to have support and structure, as a life in care can provide a yawning chasm in terms of what a family can provide. The University has an excellent support network to raise aspirations of care-leavers, and events like this can make a real difference.”
Also on-hand at the event at a dedicated exhibition area will be advisors from local and national organisations who support looked after young people and care leavers. Tours given of LJMU’s John Lennon Art and Design Building will also include information on courses and the John Lennon Imagine Award.
LJMU’s Professor Caroline Wilkinson, Director of the Liverpool School of Art and Design, added: “This event further demonstrates how we at LJMU are committed to helping more care leavers go to university. The John Lennon Imagine Award of £1,000 per year exists to encourage care leavers and young people who are estranged from their families into higher education and while we know we have been successful in this aim, we must continue to raise awareness of opportunities for them at LJMU and in higher education as a whole. Around 93% of students in receipt of the John Lennon Imagine Award have said they would not have found it as easy to successfully complete their studies without the financial help and the support of our dedicated Care Leavers’ Co-ordinator.”
In addition to the financial element of the John Lennon Imagine Awards, eligible students also receive a bespoke package of support, carefully designed to suit each young person’s circumstances. The Care Leavers’ Co-ordinator offers personal one-to-one assistance, offering help with independent living, managing finances, studying and accommodation.