Barristers back Black History Month play

Liverpool lawyers and their north of England colleagues are backing a play being performed at St George’s Hall this month to mark Black History Month. Tony McDonough reports

Tayo Aluko
Actor, singer and playwright Tayo Aluko at St George’s Hall


Barristers in Liverpool are joining colleagues from across the north in offering their backing to a play being performed in the city to mark Black History Month.

Just An Ordinary Lawyer is a full-length play by actor, singer and playwright Tayo Aluko.It has been performed in five countries, focuses on the life and times of Tunji Sowande, who arrived in the UK from Nigeria in 1945.

He rose to become a well-respected barrister, the first black head of chambers and the first (part-time) black judge in Britain.

Tunji was also an active solo concert performer as a baritone singer, giving concerts for charities and to entertain residents of old people’s homes.

And he was a great lover of sports, particularly cricket, proudly becoming a member of the exclusive Marylebone Cricket Club known as “the home of cricket.”

Like the character he plays, Tayo Aluko was born in Nigeria. He believes Black History Month is an opportunity to share stories, particularly positive and uplifting ones, about African history with everybody.

Liverpool-based Tayo said: “Just an Ordinary Lawyer is an example of what I try to do with my work. I use individual stories to look at history and the world, from the point of view of someone who might be just an ordinary person.

“If such a person opens their eyes, their ears and their mind, they will hopefully understand why the world is the way it is today, and particularly how people who went before us fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.

“Hopefully they will be inspired to accept a responsibility to also fight when they see those freedoms being threatened, or being denied others.”

Barristers on the Northern Circuit have agreed to sponsor the performance. It will take place at St George’s Hall on Friday, October 20. It will be attended by barristers and members of the judiciary.

Jaime Hamilton KC, leader of the Northern Circuit, added: “Black History Month is an opportunity for the Northern Circuit to look both inwards and outwards. That opportunity is important as it allows us to learn things we may not have known.

“It also allows us to acknowledge the significance of certain historical events and provides us with the chance, together and individually, to think whether we should do anything differently. We should always embrace an opportunity.

Just an Ordinary Lawyer is important because it places an aspect of the history of the Bar in a personal light. The Bar is a very old profession.

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“For centuries and centuries, it was made up of white men. Exclusively. We celebrated the stories recently of the first women who were admitted to the Bar on the hundredth anniversary of that event.

Before that, the prejudice against women in a courtroom had been written into the laws and the regulations. The prejudice against people of colour just existed as a fact of life.

“It is important that we look at ourselves and ask why it is that it took until 1968 for the first black practitioner to become a part time judge.”

Click here for more information on Tayo Aluko and the play.

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