Universal Books


INTRODUCING Kemi Atanda Ilori

Author Kemi Ilori

Kemi Atanda Ilori

Dr Kemi Atanda Ilori (b. 1959) studied at the University of Ife in Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) and then in the United Kingdom at Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford, where he gained degrees in Drama, Literature and Housing. He lectured from 1983 to 1990 at the University of Ife, where most of his early poems were published in Sokoti, Ijala and ISALA. The University published his Voices of The Hurricane in its monograph series in 1983. The Association of Nigerian Authors published his Amnesty in 1988. His latest volume of poems, Wole Soyinka and Other Poems (2014) is a tribute to Soyinka.

Ilori moved to the United Kingdom in 1990 and found a new career in Housing in 1993. He rose through the ranks and became the Director of Housing Services with Manningham Housing Association in Bradford in 2002, a post he held until 2011. He has been the Pastor of Living Hope Church since its inception, first in Nigeria and, latterly, in the UK.

In addition to poetry, Ilori has published essays on Nigerian drama and theatre, including full length publications on Wole Soyinka and Ola Rotimi. He is currently working on “The Theatre of Femi Osofisan” and “The Theatre of J.P. Clark”.

In a recent interview with Universal Books, Dr Kemi Atanda Ilori stated: “I published my first poem in The Daily Times (Nigeria) when I was 18 years old. I have enjoyed publishing my work in various ways. However, between 1990 and 2014, I was like a wine-maker, working on his wines in a deep cellar. I feel, as a result, what I have got to offer now is very mature wine. I have tasted it myself and am very delighted. I think I have got something quite sizzling, a great, great brew for the connoisseur!”

Dr Kemi Atanda Ilori has degrees in Drama, Literature and Housing. He was born on Saturday 5th September, 1959 in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. The baby was delivered at home in his grandfather’s traditional lounge. His parents were Daniel Tokunbo Ilori (1915-1974) and Mariam Ebun Ilori (1926 – 1988). Ilori’s formal education started in 1963 at the Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, in Lagere, Ile-Ife and then continued at St. Bernard’s (Roman Catholic) Primary School in 1964 where he completed his primary education in 1971. For his secondary education, he attended St. John’s (Roman Catholic) Grammar School, Oke-Atan, Ile-Ife until 1976. He sat for his West African Examination Council and General Certificate of Education exams again at the same school in June 1978, obtaining a Grade 1. He subsequently gained admission to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he studied Dramatic Arts from 1978 until 1982 and obtained a Second Class Honours (Upper Division). Wole Soyinka was the head of department during this period and his principal tutor. Ilori started teaching at the University in 1982, firstly, as part of his National Youth Service call-up, and later as a Graduate Assistant.

He became a full-fledged Lecturer following his Master of Arts degree in Literature in 1985. He gained a British Council Scholarship to complete his doctoral studies at the University of Leeds, England and immigrated to the United Kingdom in 1990. He subsequently changed his career from university teaching to social housing in 1993 when he joined Brunel and Family Housing Association in Bradford. He attended Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield from 1994 until 1998, gaining a Postgraduate Diploma in Housing Administration and a Master of Arts in Housing Policy and Practice. He moved from Brunel and Family Housing Association, Bradford to South Yorkshire Housing Association, Sheffield and finally joined Manningham Housing Association, Bradford in 2002 where he worked until July 2011 as Director of Housing Services.

During his tenure as Director of Housing Services at Manningham Housing Association, the Association’s housing services received commendation from the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Housing Federation and the Federation of Black Housing Organisations. For instance, the Association’s housing services had a partnership arrangement with William Sutton Housing which was so successful that it was cited as an example of Best Practice by the National Housing Federation in 2006; the partnership with Incommunities around community cohesion earned a joint runners up GOLD award for the entries on community cohesion by the Housing Corporation in 2007; the partnership with HACT, other registered providers and the local authority on Accommodate – a refugee integration partnership – was highly rated within the region in 2007. The Association’s housing services’ work with residents in tackling social exclusion and community building was cited at various CIH regional seminars and recognized by other registered providers between 2006 and 2008.

On a part time basis, he studied at the University of Bradford and gained a doctorate in Housing in 2012. His PhD thesis was titled “Social Capital and Community Cohesion: The Role of Social Housing in Building Cohesive Communities”. He has re-written this thesis into a book of the same title, published by Universal Books in 2014. Ilori returned to his original career in Drama and Theatre when he was accepted by the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds, to undertake a doctoral research on the theatre of Wole Soyinka, which he completed in 2016, obtaining a second PhD in Drama and Theatre. He has re-written his doctoral thesis into a book on Soyinka’s theatre, “The Theatre of Wole Soyinka: New Frontiers in Performance Theory and Postcolonial Discourse” (2017). He has published several academic articles in various journals and magazines, mainly on Nigerian drama and theatre. His in-depth study of the drama and theatre of Nigeria’s Ola Rotimi was published in April 2017 – “The Theatre of Ola Rotimi: Power, Politics and Postcolonialism”.

Kemi Atanda Ilori took up poetry early in life and has published his poems in various magazines and journals. He is the author of three collections of poetry, namely, Voices of The Hurricane (1985 – University of Ife) and Amnesty (1988 – Association of Nigerian Authors) and Wole Soyinka and Other Poems (2014 – Universal Books). He is a playwright and actor and some of his shorter plays were broadcast on radio, namely, Ondo State Radiovision Corporation. He directed Wole Soyinka’s “The Trials of Brother Jero” to a wide acclaim for the Ife Book Fair in 1984. He directed “The Beggars’ Strike” (adapted from Aminata Sow’s novel of same title) by Tejumola Olaniyan in 1988. He was the Secretary of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists (SONTA) in 1987-88 and played a key role on the editorial board of SONTA.

He won various literary prizes whilst studying at the University of Ife where he contributed regularly to SOKOTI and the Ife Journal in African Literature and the Arts (IJALA) and Ife Studies in African Literature and the Arts (ISALA). He eventually taught dramatic literature at the University of Ife for eight years, with the privilege of studying under and working alongside Professor Wole Soyinka, Kole Omotoso, Femi Euba, Gabriel Akomolafe, Folabo Ajayi and Chuck Mike, to name but a few members of the academic staff at the time. At the University of Leeds, he played the lead role in the world premiere of “Naira Has No Gender” by Olu Obafemi. He was conference speaker for the Chartered Institute of Housing at regional seminars and at various seminars run by the National Housing Federation and the Housing Quality Network.

Kemi Atanda Ilori (or Kemi Ilori, for short) has been the Pastor of Living Hope Church, Leeds since its inception on Sunday 8th November, 1998. Living Hope Church began initially in Ile-Ife, Nigeria in 1988 as Christ Bible Fellowship. Living Hope Church is a registered UK charity and company limited by guarantee. Pastor Kemi is the Executive Pastor and Director. Living Hope Church is also known as Kemi Ilori Ministries. The branches of the Church in Ile-Ife, Nigeria today form a major part of Living Hope Church, Leeds. There are other branches in Kenya, Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Pastor Kemi, therefore, acts in the role of General Overseer. He has written expositional essays on what it means to have a personal experience of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of his writings can be found on the website of Living Hope Church and other major online platforms. He is currently working on a number of titles which will assist readers to deepen their understanding of how God’s sovereign plans can be fully attained by those who walk by faith.

Pastor Kemi’s gift is in mentoring believers to take their rightful position in the body of the Lord through faith in His name. His teachings inspire believers to trust God for exceptional breakthroughs and to maintain a close relationship with Him no matter what comes their way.

For more information about Living Hope Church, visit www.livinghopechurch.co.uk. If you wish to contact Pastor Kemi send him an e-mail at pastorkemi@livinghopechurch.co.uk. He usually replies himself.

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