My first memory of the Blackie was when I was part of a Blackie project that involved going around the streets of Toxteth and identifying empty spaces in the area. We would then proceed to make the space look bright. We would paint faces, hop scotch and create play areas. It was exciting as a kid and I remember Bill Harpe coming to look at our work, it was the first time that I met him. The buzz of the youth sessions and the general atmosphere attracted me to the Blackie.
During the school half-term I would always be in the Blackie doing different activities. I started dancing when I was nine. I was going on the dancing sessions with Steve Mulrooney and was basically dancing anywhere I got the opportunity. I was determined to become a top dancer and the Blackie was proving to be not only an inspiration but a venue that attracted artists from around the world.
The Irie Dance Company came to the Blackie to audition for an African Dance piece. I was only 10. It was a week long workshop leading to a performance and five people would be chosen for this West End production. I was one of the five. The piece involved an African version of the River Dance. We performed the show for 2 nights and it was the first time my mum had seen me dancing live.
I started attending dance schools and was admitted into the Liverpool Theatre School when I was 16. I soon realised that I preferred to be involved in more contemporary-urban dance. As much as I enjoyed the dance school I started working with other dance companies so I could satisfy my desire for working at a grassroots level, as well as addressing social issues.
I was soon part of the Catalyst Drama Group working with people like Helen Flukes, Otis Graham and Max. We linked with the Wirral Youth Theatre and produced a piece of work called ‘No Dogs No Blacks No Irish’. It allowed groups of Black and White young people to explore issues of prejudice, racism and intolerance. This made drama and dance more exciting and realistic.
I had a daughter, Nataliyah, when I was 19. I got the job to take over the Toxteth Dance Group, the group I was originally in. The group had been part of the Merseyside Dance Initiative project. My job involved chorography routines and we performed at numerous venues including the African Oye and Brouhaha festivals. I held this position for over 4 years.