26/10/2020- Member

Celebrating Black History Month – Kola Ayanwale

BF celebrates Black History Month with Kola Ayanwale. We find out how he started in fencing, where he finds inspiration and learn more about how Black History reflects in his respect for others.

October is Black History Month in the UK, an annual month that celebrates and reflects on Black history, arts and culture, as well as recognising the achievements and roles of Black people in shaping history.

To celebrate Black History Month, we asked some of our black community members to tell us more about themselves and their lives in fencing, as well as what the month means to them and how Black history has shaped their lives.


Kola, how are you involved in fencing? What does this mean you do?

  1. As an athlete: aspiring to represent Team GB at the Veterans Worlds and European Teams championships. I’ve also represented Team South East (Vets Winton) and England for the Vets Home Nations.
  2. As a referee: FIE qualified (Epee) referee representing British Fencing on the international circuit. One of a group of top-level referees on the national fencing scene.
  3. As a role model: For young fencers coming up, especially those of non-white ethnic backgrounds, seeing me as an official at national fencing events is a boost and shows that “people that look like me” can do good things in the sport.


How did you get started in fencing?

In school – I went to a school where I was able to try several sports. Fencing was one of the ones I liked and was reasonably good at.


What three words would you use to describe your involvement in fencing?

Focused / Happy / Family


What is your proudest fencing achievement?

I don’t know about “proudest”, but there are a few moments in my fencing life when I’ve been really chuffed:

  1. Not coming last in my very first Open.
  2. Coming 2nd at the Bexley Open, and then having travelled up to Manchester on the same day, winning Gold in my Age Group at a veterans’ event on the Sunday.
  3. Turning out on the piste at my first international veterans’ event (Cognac 2019).


Where were you born and brought up?

I was born in London in the 70s and raised across the UK and overseas.


What does Black History Month mean to you?

  1. A certain level of sadness that “blackness” must be celebrated because it’s not incorporated into the bedrock of society.
  2. Pride and respect for the people who make the effort to keep our minds focused on the good.


How has Black History shaped your life?

I think it’s less about how Black History has shaped my life than it is about how my experiences in life have shaped my perception of reality and justice for today. Having said that, Black History touches the music I listen to, my respect for others, and my desire to be better each day.


Who is your biggest inspiration? / Are there any influential Black role models in your life?

No role models, but I respect the likes of Denise Lewis, Kelly Holmes and Colin Jackson for reaching the pinnacle of their sport. I’ve read Malcolm X and MLK biographies.


Who is someone making Black History today?

Chadwick Boseman, Oprah Winfrey, Barak Obama, David Lammy, Kamala Harris.


If people could watch, read or listen to one thing this month to understand more about Black History what would you suggest, and why?

Read “Tell Freedom: Memories of Africa” (Peter Abrahams) or “Long Walk to Freedom” (Nelson Mandela). From different perspectives, these works look at some of the injustices meted out to black people. I would also ask people to watch “When They See Us” (Netflix), a depiction of how easy it is to allow prejudice to seep into the justice system.


Complete the sentence…“When I’m not involved with fencing, I am…”

“…either working or at home. Sometimes, you might see me cycling the hills of Kent.”


What would it surprise people to know about you?

I dabble in poetry.



More: (Kola was amongst a cohort of referees who attended a mock FIE exam held during the Cadet and Junior National Championships in London.)

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