Nims Obunge Early Life
I was born in St Mary Abbots Hospital in Kensington in 1965. I was the heaviest baby the hospital had ever had at the time – just under 12lbs. There were nine children in my family and I was number nine.
My father and mother are Nigerians. My father worked as a diplomat and we lived in many places, including: England, Sweden, Italy, Ireland and Nigeria. So, I grew up as a citizen of the world! Going to Nigeria allowed me to appreciate my African heritage, and celebrate my culture.
But I loved the travelling. It made me appreciate London’s diversity. I think, I was shaped by my parents rather than one country.
Nims Obunge Biography
Growing up in London
In Cricklewood – I loved my childhood experience there. I loved the park near my house, where I played cricket and just sat under the trees.
Moving back to London
When I was about 21, I finished university in Nigeria and came back to our family home in Cricklewood because my brother had been diagnosed with cancer. It was an aggressive cancer that created a large growth on his face and at one point, he wasn’t given long to live so I wanted to be near him.
Soon after, he went to Nigeria to visit a minister there and the cancer seemed to abate. Then he came back to London and was told the cancer had disappeared. It left a hole on his face, and bone had to be taken from his leg to rebuild his jaw. My brother is now a leader in my church.
Normal day’s work
I spend a lot of time meeting with young people, bereaved families and people who work in the voluntary sector. I spend time planning the London Week of Peace, on peace alliance projects, pastoring in my church and working with my team here.
View from the window
There are no windows, except looking into another room. But I work in a beautiful part of Tottenham; Bruce Grove. Across the road is an excellent Italian art deco restaurant called San Marco. The owner’s a great chief, and a great artist. He paints fantastic pictures of London.
Area of Work
Tottenham is a great multicultural area. When you walk along the street you can find Caribbean, Chinese, Turkish restaurants; there is such a very rich mix of food. It’s not your typical high street shopping experience.
New homes and a hotel are being built at Tottenham Hale. It’s an exciting development. We have the Bruce Castle museum and park, where London’s second largest carnival is held.
Bringing Up Children in London
Yes, in the more affluent parts. But in the economically and socially deprived areas, where people are struggling, there are tensions between different postcodes and schools. There is a lot of friction which is even under the police radar.
There is more crime in less affluent areas. For example, here in Haringey, there is more crime in the east. Whereas in the west, in places like in Highgate, they don’t have the same concerns and therefore children achieve more. They have a better experience and do better in school.
As a Pastor
Nims Obunge is the Pastor at the Freedom’s Ark Church, in Tottenham, and Chief Executive of the Peace Alliance, which created London’s annual Week of Peace.
Yes, we had a big problem with violent crime here. I was burying young people who had been shot or stabbed and I was speaking at their death, yet I’d never had the opportunity to speak in their lives. So, I felt challenged by God to see whether I could pastor people who I knew would never come to my church.
We needed to create a response to what was happening, so we started the Peace Alliance, and the London Peace week. We wanted to support the community in dealing with tensions between different cultures so we started ‘Building Relationships Amongst Cultures Everywhere’ – or BRACE.
When we started, there was a huge need because so many young people were being shot or stabbed. It has reduced now and I pray it continues to do so. For me, pastoring is more than sharing on a Sunday morning; it is about social justice.
The multi-faith community has worked in partnership with the police, council, parents and community and seen a reduction in this type of crime. We created a DVD for schools to share with children how to avoid getting caught up in that spiral of violence but we still must look at the pockets of deprivation in this city.
I’m Chair of the London Criminal Justice Board IAG (Independent Advisory Group), and in partnership with the police, we’re involved in a particular project that looks at young people going into prison and finds out which estates they come from. Then it sees how we can invest resources, financial and otherwise, into these estates and communities.
I love table tennis. When I am really at a stress point – I play table tennis. And I love playing on the Wii with my kids – I am great at that. But don’t let me talk about that in case someone challenges me, and beats me!
Tranquillity in London
I don’t need a place, I need an attitude. Wherever I am, I am able to find that place.
Worst thing about London
The perception of crime, and the fear. Not the crime itself. It’s the young person saying they are scared when they get out of school, to the mums and dads giving their kids mobile phones because they are scared about where they are.
Some people think the overcrowding is bad, but I think the crowd is good – let’s hang out together!
The culture, diversity and its rich history. And yes it’s got great architecture, but you have also got great opportunity here, if you dare to dream. I want London to be a city of hope and dreams. Especially with 2012 coming, we should aspire to that.
I would go on a full video tour; Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace – the lot. I’d want to capture the architecture of London and then I would have a big party with all my friends and family.
Although I have buried people younger than me, I have not decided where I would like to go. Perhaps when I get closer to death I might find an affinity to an area, but right now there is too much to be done, so let’s keep living, eh?