Tailor-Made for Successsuccess; She Is a Star of Liverpool's Black History Month, but Is Also a Dressmaker and a Writer in This City of Fashion and Storytellers. David Charters Reports

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), October 7, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Tailor-Made for Successsuccess; She Is a Star of Liverpool's Black History Month, but Is Also a Dressmaker and a Writer in This City of Fashion and Storytellers. David Charters Reports


Byline: David Charters

SHE decorates the table with her smile, so bright and sincere, and her earrings shine in the strip lighting, as she sips from a beaker of whisked coffee, before talking of this city -- her city, the place of her faith, which now throbs with energy in anticipation of being the 2008 European Capital of Culture.

To the swelling celebrations, she is offering her own beautifully illustrated children's story, Akua's Chair, to be published on October 13, with a launch party 10 days later at the News From Nowhere book shop on Bold Street, Liverpool.

Yes, there is an aura of success and promise for the future around Ayo Ogolo, who can trace her line back to Nigeria. But now she is a Liverpudlian, rooted in the city, just as she was in 1981, when the flames spread through Toxteth, alerting the Thatcher Government to the feelings of people, who had felt excluded from the opportunities laid down for others.

It was an expression of anger from deprived people, white, black and of mixed race.

Maybe now, though, it is possible to see how the warnings which arose from protest and fear led to the slow process of revival.

Of course, this October is Black History month in Liverpool, the annual platform for people from what is known as ``the black community'', but is really just a collection of individuals like any other, to tell of their contributions, past and present.

In the time-warped phrase of football managers, Ayo, the old girl of Shorefield Comprehensive School, Dingle, has ``done well''. Equipped with O levels in English, art, history, biology and French, she trained as a ``tailoress'' at the Mabel Fletcher College, Wavertree.

Later, when she had established her own business in Manchester, where she has worked for the past eight years, she won commissions to create stage costumes for such artistes as Prince, Gloria Estefan, Erasure and Barry Manilow.

But there had always the desire to be a writer.

Now that she is back in Liverpool, Ayo is searching for premises in the Lodge Lane area, suitable for her fashion, writing and other activities, which she lumps together under the title ``multi-media artist''.

At Stanhope Street Nursery School and St Margaret's Primary, Toxteth, her love of stories had first developed.

And this was fanned by the success of Levi Tafari, another black writer from Liverpool. After the riots, her mother Norma Chevannes, became a founder of one of the writers' workshops which sprang up. Ayo's own fledgling poem Shadows on the Wall was included in an anthology.

``At the time my mum said to me, `if ever I am not about, writing is the tool you can use to get through life'.

I didn't understand what she meant then, but when you get older it slots into place and you know what your parents are saying, '' says Ayo.

``My mum still is a writer. What I would like to do in the future is have a publishing company for a lot of people. My mum has been wonderful to us (brother Paul, 39, is a surveyor), despite being brought in that cliche of the `single' parent, we have had the best of both worlds with the introduction to Afro/American children's stories, the setting up of a Methodist Church and many other things. ''

The family was also friendly with Wally Brown, the community worker and principal of the Liverpool Community College, who sat on the inquiry of 1988/89, chaired by Lord Anthony Gifford, which examined race relations in Liverpool.

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Tailor-Made for Successsuccess; She Is a Star of Liverpool's Black History Month, but Is Also a Dressmaker and a Writer in This City of Fashion and Storytellers. David Charters Reports
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