Listen to Lola's story as part of The Making of Black Britain oral history project


Lola (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain

Lola is of Nigerian heritage.
She was born in Britain.
Lola spent her childhood in care.
In 2004, Lola was created a life peer, taking the title Baroness Young of Hornsey.
Lola was interviewed for The Making of Black Britain on 15th September, 2021. 

Lola (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain

Lola talks about her early life in London

We all slept in the same bedroom with a paraffin heater.

It feels Victorian almost, doesn’t it? It is kind of, because we used to have the chimney sweep in, and we used to because we have coal fire, of course, and the coal man would come around in a horse-drawn cart, as would the rag and bone man. It's like Dickens or something. And it's this extraordinary period of change. 

Lola discusses her relationship with her parents

It was in my head that I had been abandoned.

And then when I found out that my situation wasn't the norm, it became, you know, “So why, why am I in this situation? Why is it that at Christmas, I'm dependent on all these strangers, for Christmas presents and things?” And, in fact, these were the grown-up children, grown-ups that had been children, that my foster mother had fostered before. And she'd adopted a couple of them. 

Lola talks about her lifestyle

Lots of vegetables and fruit, and chocolate brownies.

I think I've learned to recognise when I'm happy. Because I find, some people find it really difficult to let themselves be happy or be content, and that there's always something else that they're striving for. And I'm not making judgement on those people. I am quite competitive with myself in many ways, but I like to think that's, you know, I have an aim, do that, fine, and then sort of move on.

Lola talks about her heritage in terms of food

I'm not going to pretend I had a happy, glorious childhood.

You can't just go from fish and chips, and suet pudding and treacle, to okra and pigs trotters in one leap. You know, it was so hard. And so the food was one of many battles that we fought over when I was with this aunt and uncle. 

Lola talks about her family

"Do you want to come to Nigeria with me?" And I said, "No."

It was traumatic. You can imagine, you know, how that might have been. So as far as I was concerned, I was abandoned. My father never paid a penny towards my upkeep. He paid for my fare to go to the wedding. And that, and then I stayed with different relatives, most of whom I'd never met before, all of whom had expectations and demands of me.

Lola discusses racism and progress

Progress isn't linear, change isn't linear.

So, I think it's perfectly possible for things to change radically, but you still haven't made any progress. But by the same token, you have to recognise where there are little pots of progress, or changes that are a bit more positive than you might have thought.

Lola on the set of Metal Mickey, 1981, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
Show lessRead more
Lola with Bernie Grant and Sam Walker, 1998, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
Show lessRead more

Lola (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain

Lola discusses her career

I applied to become a member of the House of Lords.

There's a kind of, without wishing to make it all about me, there's a kind of analogue between. So my experience of invisibility if you like, in regard to my parents and what have you. There's a wider thing of the quintessential black experience in this country is always related back to Windrush. And our parents were of that generation very much, but they weren't from the Caribbean. And they didn't come here for the same reasons.

Baroness Lola Young receiving her OBE, 2001, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
Show lessRead more

Lola (2021) by Vanely BurkeThe Making of Black Britain

Lola talks about cancel culture and the future

They're the ones who want to cancel culture

And I think there's a way of putting out this period of time, or describing this period of time as being “we're all divided. There's so much hate and what have you,” which actually, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So you must resist that, because it's not entirely true. 

Lola talks about social media and extremism

A lot of people have found a means of expressing their anger

In the middle, you've got this great group. So all you need to do is to maybe get a third of that group in the middle to come over to, as it were, our 'side'. 
And we're done here, because you'll never get 100%, right? 

Lola and Vanley, London (2021)The Making of Black Britain

Baroness Lola Young and Vanley Burke, London, 2021

Now listen to Vanley tell his story, for The Making of Black Britain.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.