From midwife to mayor

Councillor Kate Anolue at her mayor-making ceremony
Councillor Kate Anolue at her mayor-making ceremony (credit Enfield Council)

Councillor Kate Anolue speaks to James Cracknell after becoming mayor for a second time

While Kate Anolue has achieved a huge amount in her 70 years, she remains determined to do more.

In May, when Enfield’s new Nigerian-born mayor was handed the chains of office for a second time, she immediately vowed to break the £44,000 fundraising record she herself had set during her previous term as mayor in 2012/13.

“Being mayor is very community based,” Councillor Anolue tells me. “Raising funds for good causes, meeting people and seeing the work of volunteers that you don’t otherwise get to see, for me it is very satisfying.”

As a teenager in the 1960s Cllr Anolue was forced to flee violence during the Nigerian Civil War, and ended up sharing a single room with seven other family members. But her father ensured she continued in education so that she could one day become a nurse.

Emigrating to England in 1971 to meet the husband with whom she had an arranged marriage, Cllr Anolue was tragically left to raise their children alone when he died shortly after their fourth child was born. She went on to work at North Middlesex Hospital for 40 years, delivering thousands of babies as a midwife, before retiring in 2012 to focus on politics and community work.

The Upper Edmonton councillor has now written an autobiography about her extraordinary life to help raise extra funds during her mayoral term, with a book launch taking place later this month.

“I have achieved a lot, but I want to do more. When I left the council in 2014 [before returning in 2018] I travelled home to look after my mother, but I still had a sense that there was a job that I hadn’t completed in Enfield.

“I went to Barking and Dagenham where they have a young mayor and I realised we need it here as well. Enfield has a youth parliament, but I saw what young mayors were doing in other boroughs and they are fantastic, so I thought it would be a good idea.

“We need to make sure young people know they are loved. We tend to forget we were once young ourselves and that we had someone who cared for us.”

Cllr Anolue’s fundraising for the year ahead will focus on health, benefiting charities tackling dementia, cancer and sickle cell anaemia, which are all causes close to her heart.

“I am a sickle cell carrier but fortunately my husband didn’t have it so it was not passed on. We encourage young girls to find out whether they carry it, before they have children.”

One of Cllr Anolue’s closest friends died last year from cancer, while another has dementia. “When my friend started developing dementia, it upset me very much. I visit her every week but she does not communicate.”

Cllr Anolue, who is also a trained lawyer, has previously been recognised for her work in the community both here and in Nigeria. In Enfield she was awarded the freedom of the borough in 2007, while she was made a chieftain in her hometown Nanka a year later.

“Each town has its own king and queen, but there are not many women who are made chieftains, I was the only one out of 50.”

It was this royal family that made the trip to London to celebrate Cllr Anolue’s achievement of becoming mayor a second time, attending the mayor-making ceremony in May and using the occasion to introduce other Enfield councillors to their colourful culture.

Cllr Anolue still goes back regularly to Nanka, in Nigeria’s Anambra state, but always feels at home in Enfield. Aside from fundraising and charity work, she has spoken about wanting to unite the borough.

“I want to work hard and listen to people; we have unemployment, young people who are not in education, housing problems. We need to talk about it and work together – if you don’t do that you can never achieve anything.”

Cllr Anolue is launching her autobiography with an event on Friday 26th July at Enfield Civic Centre. Kate Anolue: The Autobiography is now available to buy.