is a BAFTA nominated award winning writer, best-selling author, prolific speaker and performer, who has inspired audiences across the world.
He was the official poet of the London 2012 Olympics and his Landmark Poems can be found on the walls of hospitals, libraries, pubs, universities and train stations, bringing his writing to communities in public spaces every day.
On his appointment as Brighton Festival Guest Director Lemn Sissay said:
"Art saves lives, it literally saves lives. Art is how we translate the human spirit. That's why you have art and religions. That's why people sing. That's why we read poems at funerals and weddings, we need some bridge between the spiritual, the physical, the past, the present, the future.
"Something that lifts us to a higher place, that celebrates our humanity. And here we get to celebrate together, in an arts festival on the edge of the sea, in the month of my birthday. What an honour that is."
In his 2019 memoir, My Name Is Why
, Sissay reflects on his childhood, self-expression and Britishness, and explores the institutional care system he was raised in, race, family and the meaning of home.
His moving, frank and timely story is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.
Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Festival added:
"We're thrilled Lemn is directing Brighton Festival 2020. He is a truly inspiring artist whose work connects with everyone and wakes us up to what it means to be human.
"His generous, collaborative imagination ranges across everything we do and he has an instinctive feel for Brighton.
"We can't wait to see his festival brought to life next May."
Further Festival highlights include a contemporary adaptation of The War of the Worlds by Rhum and Clay Theatre Company at Worthing"s Connaught Theatre.
Inspired by H.G. Wells' novel and Orson Welles' legendary 1938 radio broadcast, the Brighton Festival co-production has been playfully reimagined for the fake news generation and will leave audiences questioning what is truth and what is fiction.
Also appearing exclusively in Brighton, ahead of their London date in May are Malian musicians Amadou & Mariam, performing together with the Grammy Award-winning gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama.
The artists have forged a friendship that combines contemporary African sounds with African-American roots music.
The Festival opening weekend will feature the world première of Double Murder, by Hofesh Shechter Company.
The two-part contemporary dance has been created by the choreographer Hofesh Shechter OBE and will be performed by ten of his inimitable dancers, accompanied by the epic sounds of a Shechter-composed score.
Full programme details will be announced at the Brighton Festival 2020 launch on Tuesday 11th February 2020 and online: brightonfestival.org.