We would like to thank Bourough and Beyond for allowing us to share this interview with Kemi Oloyede during Care Experienced History Month 2021.
Kemi Oloyede is the Founder and Creative Director of The Sew London Project. After a career in teaching Fine Art, Textile Technology and Fashion for two decades, she set up The Sew London Project in 2015 to teach children as well as adults how to upcycle, sew and craft.
Tell me a bit about what you do; your brand and ‘The London Sew Project’
What is private fostering and why did it take place?
My parents came over to the UK after being encouraged to come and study here. When they settled and had children, they obviously didn’t have any family in England who could help with childcare, they were not aware of the situation or lack of set up before they came over; they had to deal with the culture shock themselves and then they were told that the ‘way it worked here’ was finding someone to look after their children, a foster parent/family. They placed an advert in a nursery magazine, as that’s what was recommended to them by other people in the same situation.
What ages were you fostered and where did you live?
My foster family were amazing, my foster mother would fight battles she shouldn’t of had to fight, she called out racism when she was faced with it. I am still close with my foster brothers and sisters and they always introduce me as their sister – they don’t feel the need to explain the situation. I had two families – it was the best of both worlds; my English parents told me I could do anything creative, whereas when I went to Nigeria there was a stronger emphasis on learning and education before playing with dolls!
Do you feel you had a ‘unique’ situation with the foster parents you were placed with?
I feel very luck for the experience I had, I know not everyone had the same. My birth parents would visit every fortnight and we had family come to visit. My mother and foster mother were very close and were involved in decisions about education especially.
Your foster family sound amazing, how were the structures around you; was there social services, was your school supportive?
The first few years it was just us, there wasn’t really any structures.
If you had stayed in Brighton, would you have been the Kemi were talking to now?
If she had stayed in Brighton would she have been who she was today… probably not. When I arrived in Nigeria I realised ‘you’re not in England anymore they don’t have power over you, like something broke off me’.