Lanré Olagoke: Artist wants MBE to inspire hope in young people

Lanré Olagoke
Image caption,Lanré Olagoke describes painting as his “salvation”

By James W Kelly

BBC News

“There would be no MBE for me if there were no young people,” said London artist Lanré Olagoke.

The self-taught painter, who spent part of his childhood in Nigeria, was recognised in the King’s New Year’s Honours list for his work helping young people access the arts.

Mr Olagoke set up the Art-Alive Art Trust (AAAT) in 1997 to help young people in various settings from primary schools to prisons access the arts.

He founded the trust after he found art to be a therapeutic means of facing his own issues.


“It started with me being homeless on the street addicted to drugs,” Mr Olagoke said.

He described art as his “salvation” and said he wanted to help bring the opportunity to others facing difficulties in their lives.

“When somebody saw my vision, they said ‘this needs to be heard, we will support you’,” he said.

Over more than two decades the Art-Alive Trust has been working with homeless people, those in the prison system and going into schools across London and further afield.

Lanré Olagoke with a painting
Image caption,Mr Olagoke said he hopes to inspire hope with his MBE

Mr Olagoke said one of the “pioneering” schemes the trust undertakes is “At the Gates”, where prisoners are engaged with in the prison system and after their release so they can “see a familiar face”.

As well as painting, the trust offers workshops in textile, fashion, filming and photography from its studio on Regents Street.

Mr Olagoke aims to provide young people with skills to pursue their passion in the arts or succeed more generally in employment through “purposeful activities”.

Reacting to his MBE, the painter said he was “on top of the world”.

He said the award “gives the young people hope”.

Mr Olagoke said he has ambitions to establish an arts academy which will breed the best talent within various creative industries.

“Our main purpose is to give young people a sense of hope,” he added.

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