Groups and access

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Codes of conduct are part of the essence of how social groups function, as I’m sure children discover in playground encounters. Through the years, many terms have been used as euphemisms for allowing access to groups and organisations. If those groups are publicly funded, then it makes sense that they should have obligations to include people from a diverse range of backgrounds, but if they are privately funded, then that’s matter to be considered on a case by case basis.

I am currently preparing a new cycle of songs to be performed for the David Oluwale Memorial Organisation in Leeds. David Oluwale was a man who arrived in England in the late 1940s from Nigeria, hoping to get an education and to build a bright future for himself. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, things didn’t work out as he intended. Eventually, he was caught in a trap of being marginalised, ostracised and bullied, which led to his demise, 20 years later in 1969.

On the other hand I have also contributed some thoughts to a BBC Radio 4 programme which is to be broadcast twice today, about Fela Sowande, the Nigerian composer. Sowande lived in London around the same time that Oluwale lived in Leeds, but his musical talents and other attributes gained him access to a more salubrious way of life. He was employed by the BBC, made several programmes about the future of African Classical Music and eventually went back to Nigeria around the time of his homeland’s independence.

Did Sowande live happily ever after? His life in Nigeria as a member of the indigenous elite class didn’t seem to be what he expected, so he migrated to the USA, where he resided for the rest of his life, eventually passing away in the 1980s.

Oluwale and Sowande experienced the effects of migration in different ways. There is no simple or easy lesson to be learnt from their lives. But they are both remembered in this era partially because of the way they dealt with gaining access to social groups who initially regarded them as outsiders.