The RememberOluwale charity uses various methods to put its aims into practice, concentrating its work in the city of Leeds, UK. Overall, our aim (as recommended by the UK Charity Commission) is to promote equality, diversity and racial harmony by telling the story of David Oluwale.
That means explaining what happened in David’s life, including the circumstances of his death in 1969. We also campaign on all the all issues that David endured, including mental ill-health, racism, homelessness, destitution, police brutality, incarceration in prison and psychiatric hospitals. Because he was a migrant — a British citizen who came to Leeds from Lagos — we talk about migration and (un)settlement as well.
We acknowledge how much has changed for the better in Leeds since David’s time here (1949-69), and we support all those in the city who are making it more inclusive, more welcoming, more just, more equal. We want to bring the margins to the centre of the city.
All our events are designed to tell people David’s story, support progressive education and change, and build support for our big idea: a Memorial Garden for David Oluwale in the centre of Leeds, near the River Aire.
We advertise what we are doing on all our social media. Search RememberOluwale on whatever platform you use. Please share what you find.
Pretty much all that do involves artists who help us tell David’s story and to campaign for progress. #ArtsForSocialJustice is one of our tag-lines. We aim for a spirit of joy and creativity in all that we do. We want to create dialogue, conviviality and a more just and equal society. What better way to do this than in poetry, performance, music, film, drama and fine art?
Our big goal is the creation of a Memorial Garden in the centre of Leeds, near the River Aire, that lifts David’s story from abjection to hope. Working with a world-class artist, we are creating a special garden in the centre of Leeds to commemorate David.
This will be a premiere example of ‘place-making’ — iconic art, drawing visitors to Leeds, that tells a story, hosts artistic performance, and inspires joyful conviviality. The sculpture will be (in the proper sense of the word) awesome; its water feature will be fun; the vegetation around it will speak of growth and change; and its seats and benches will invite people to pause, reflect, talk and share. We explain this in more detail here on this website.
Our first idea for making David’s memory was a plaque and a sculpture. But Mahalia France-Mir, one of the first people to join our committee, changed our minds. She wanted somewhere that would be inviting, especially for children, but also for anyone who wanted some peace and some pleasure, for free, in the city centre. She said we should build a garden.
Other committee members agreed, and added that it should connect to water: David’s city, Lagos, is a city of lagoons; David crossed the seas to get to the UK; he died in the River Aire, and the current was pulling him back towards Hull, on the North Sea, where he first disembarked in 1949. Leeds, as Caryl Phillips has explained, is a City on the Water.
An interim memorial garden
So we wanted the memorial garden to be as close as possible to the River Aire. Cllr Keith Wakefield, then Leader of Leeds City Council, and John Thorpe, then City Architect, approved of the idea in 2012. They immediately saw how this would work well with the plans they were developing for the tract of land south of the River Aire currently approached when you cross the Leeds Bridge. (The council’s planning framework may be inspected here.) Keith and John suggested we use a patch of land owned by ASDA supermarket close to their headquarters, next to the River Aire, in sight of Leeds Bridge, where David drowned in 1969. ASDA quickly gave us permission to examine and use the (derelict) site. We cleared it and used it for the event that launched the DOMA charity on a very cold evening in January 2013.
The sculpture garden project
In 2016 we pitched an idea for the David Oluwale Memorial Garden to a world-famous artist based in London. To our delight he was moved by our story and was very keen to offer an idea that captured the values expressed in our presentation. (The aims of the garden are set out here.) He soon produced a sketch of his proposal which entirely gelled with our ideas.
Then we had to find a site large enough to put this plan into practice. We met with Bryony Bond, artistic director of The Tetley Centre for Contemporary Art and Education near Leeds Bridge to see if our plan suited the vision she had for the park area around The Tetley, as set out in the council’s planning framework for the South Bank. Bryony was enthusiastic, since she wanted sculpture around the Tetley gallery.
Currently, discussions are developing about the precise location of the sculpture garden within the South Bank project.
1st July 2018: We supported Renaissance One’s Salon titled On Freedom, Memory and David Oluwale. Talks and Q&A with #KeiMiller, #NaomiSumnerChan and #SaiMurray (RememberOluwale Board member) at The Leeds Library.
20th September 2018: We screened (with the Leeds Black Film Club) the 1978 documentary film Blacks Brittanica. Talks and Q&A with #Margaret Henry (researcher on the film) #CourtneyHay #FelinaHughes #ArthurFranceMBE #IrmaHeilegerOBE.
4th October 2018: We supported the launch (with Leeds Irish Health and Homes) of Any Change? Poetry in a Hostile Environment, organised and edited by Ian Duhig. Poets reading included #IanDuhig, #HalimaFrance-Mir, #Ahmed Kaysher and #Sadhu. At Chapel Allerton Library, Leeds.
12th May 2018: We participated (with Chapeltown Arts) in the launch of #IshaqImruhBakari’s poetry collection Without Passport or Apology.
1st Feb 2017: Conversations in Black History with #JanetAlder speaking about the death in police custody in Hull of her brother Christopher, and #MaxFarrar (DOMA Board Secretary) speaking about the life and death of David Oluwale. Event organised by #DrSayBurgin and #DrAnyaaAnim-Adoo at Leeds University’s History Department, in conjunction with the Leeds West Indian Centre Charitable Trust.
10th February 2017: Screening of Generation Revolution, about the latest wave of black militancy in Britain sparked in part by #BlackLivesMatter in the USA and the UK. (With the Leeds Black Film Club.)
8th April 2017: Wandering Abroad poetry workshop, led by #IanDuhig, #SeniSeneviratne and #SaiMurray, funded by Forward Arts.
14th May 2017: We supported the tour by the band RISE!, a six piece band built around the epic voice of Greek singer #IrisMavraki, singing radical songs from all over the world, co-ordinated by #AidanJolly..
28th June 2017: Remembering Darcus Howe: screening of The Mangrove Nine (1974, dir. Franco Rossi and John la Rose), chaired by #DrAnyaaAnim-Adoo, with talks and Q&A from #LeilaHowe #Robin Bunce (co-author of the political biography of Darcus Howe, Renegade, published in 2017) #ArthurFranceMBE, and a special calypso from #AlexanderDGreat. (In conjunction with #StandUpToRacism.)
28th August 2017: King David Oluwale and his Migrant Masqueraders at Leeds West Indian Carnival 2017. Working with #HBMD (the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread carnival troupe,) we commissioned #AlanPergusey to make a sculpture based on the photo we have of David Oluwale, but with a smile. #JaneStorr painted it, and created the waves at the King’s waist, and #HughbonCondor made the harness. Lots of the 100+ masqueraders handed out leaflets to onlookers explaining David’s story and reminding everyone that we are all migrants.
13th October 2017: A Place Called Home — an evening of readings inspired by David Oluwale’s story by #GlynMaxwell, #ImtiazDharker and #Caryl Phillips (patron of RememberOluwale), in association with The Leeds Library.
The RememberingOluwale Writing Prize was launched in 2016 with a deadline for submissions of 6th March and a publication date of 3rd June 2016. The judges were the well-published writers Caryl Phillips, Marina Lewycka and Ian Duhig. This was made possible by our partnership with the Leeds Big BookEnd (Fiona Gell) and Fictions of Every Kind (SJ Bradley). The resulting book, edited by SJ Bradley, won a Saboteur Award in 2017. Further information on the prize.
26th February 2016: Oluwale Now! Remembering Human Rights in an Age of Crisis was a one-day symposium led by Dr (now Professor) Andrew Warnes of the School of English, University of Leeds. Featuring Guardian journalist Gary Younge and Caryl Phillips (Patron of Remember Oluwale), this event filled the main lecture theatre at the University of Leeds.
17th April 2015: The Oluwale Partnership Symposium took place at Leeds Beckett University, facilitated by its Centre for Applied Social Research. It drew practitioners in all the fields that relate to David Oluwale’s life and death. Put together with support from Touchstone, LASSN, Together for Peace and St George’s Crypt, the event included poetry from Michelle Scally Clark, Seni Seneviratne and Sai Murray, with songs from Royal Blood to round off the day. Afterwards, consultant Judith Shalkowski wrote: ‘The David Oluwale Partnership Symposium was a dynamic event, well thought through and organised. It was probably the most creative day I have had the opportunity to take part in. The Open Space and the interjection of arts based presentations was engaging and innovative. I don't doubt that the actions and impact will be realised across our communities in the days to come. Thank you for putting on such an accessible and memorable event.’
4th February 2015: We co-hosted a #BlackLivesMatter speaking tour of the UK, along with Ferguson Solidarity, Leeds University Union BME Campaigns Group, Together for Peace and Leeds Taking Soundings.
RememberOluwale uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to provide information published today that relates to the issues that marked David’s life: mental ill-health, homelessness, racism, destitution and police malpractice. David was a British citizen who migrated here, so we also provide information relating to those seeking refuge in the UK. We give credit to the city of Leeds for the progress it has made since David’s days. But there is so much more to be done. Our aim, always, is to help the city of Leeds become more inclusive, more just, more hospitable and more equal. Please go to our social media to find out about current campaigns.