Founder of Mobos talks life and Leeds

14  November 2017 .......       Kanya King MBE,  founder of the MOBO Awards by  Leeds signage in Leeds City Station changed in a nod to the MOBO's which the city is hosting at the end of the month.  Picture Tony Johnson
14 November 2017 ....... Kanya King MBE, founder of the MOBO Awards by Leeds signage in Leeds City Station changed in a nod to the MOBO's which the city is hosting at the end of the month. Picture Tony Johnson
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It’s glitzy, it’s glamorous and is one of the most prestigious events in the music industry.

But for Kanya King MBE, international businesswoman and founder of the Mobo awards, the event, being held in Leeds later this month, has become so much more than the party of the year.

Over the 20 years previous it has attracted some of the biggest names in the business such as of Jay-Z, Tina Turner, Rihanna, Diana Ross, Usher and P. Diddy.

It has been a platform for today’s household names but the area beyond even that is what interests King the most.

She told City Buzz: “In 2015 Stormzy was not a household name, he was still working but that performance changed the course of his career and gave him the confidence to leave his job. Sam Smith is huge now but the year before he wasn’t. That platform catapulted him and that is what is unique and special about the Mobos – what is to come.”

The Mobo awards has become a brand and incorporates the annual Mobo Unsung talent competition, an all year round artist development programme and the Mobo season which celebrates excellence across British culture through a series of agenda setting events.

Last year the Mobo season introduced ‘Mobo vation Talks’ aimed at motivating and celebrating communities.

King says: “This is what I want to do, inspire younger generations in their communities, families, bedrooms - think big and be inspired.”

And there is no better advocate of this message than King herself who is now one of London’s most influential people and a honorary doctorate several times over, among many other accolades.

She was one of nine children, born to a Ghanian father and Irish mother, living in a council flat in north London and recalls: “I came from a very humble beginning. My dad was ill for a lot of my life and died at 13. My mum was effectively a single parent trying to raise nine children.

“My mother was always cooking and cleaning and that was not going to be me. I realised that they made a lot of sacrifices for me and I had to use that wisely.

“Two things changed the course of my life. One was being a young parent and the other was seeing a careers teacher at school who said if I worked hard I might get a job in Sainsbury’s.

“While that is honourable, it was not for me and it gave me the fire in my belly to realise what I choose to be is what I decide and is in my own hands.”

When working as a TV researcher she saw the gap for mainstream awards celebrating black music and despite having no financial backing persuaded Carlton TV to broadcast it.

The rest, they say, is history and in 2009 King decided to take the Mobos out of the London and heartland and move around the country.

It stormed Leeds, literally back in 2015 when Stormzy wowed the world so why come back so soon?

King added: “We had such a phenomenal time last time. There are fantastic acoustics and a brilliant view and even if I have not got shows on, I come up from London to watch other acts.

“There is a massive welcome and a fantastic vibe in Leeds, there are lots and lots of different types of music and we have a fantastic time.”

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