75 years of creating stories

As we celebrate 75 years of the British Council’s cultural relations work in Nigeria, we invite you to #BePartOfTheStory

Our story so far

A photo from the British Council's early days in Nigeria of provincial secretaries and British Council staff

A photo from the British Council's early days in Nigeria of provincial secretaries and British Council staff

The British Council first opened its doors in Nigeria 75 years ago in Lagos. In 1944, the first library opened  in Marina in the old exhibition hall, known as British Council House.

Formed ten years earlier in 1934, the British Council’s role is to improve the understanding of Britain across the world. From sharing knowledge by sending books and lecturers overseas, to cultural exchange in the form of theatre, music and art, the British Council’s cultural exchange relationship with Nigeria began with a library, and has taken many forms since.

HRH The Princess Anne meets Nigerian teachers

HRH The Princess Anne meets Nigerian teachers

1944 The British Council launches in Nigeria with a library at British Council House

1960 Nigeria gains independence, with the British Council running the Public Library Development Scheme

1970 Following library closures, the British Council’s activities become focused on educational and technical development projects 1970-80

1990 The British Council started using electronic and online communications to provide access to their services, a trend which continues today

2000 Cathie Stevens becomes the first female Country Director in Nigeria

2003 HRM Queen Elizabeth visits Nigeria as part of the British Council’s 60 year anniversary

HRH Queen Elizabeth visits the British Council Nigeria

HRH Queen Elizabeth visits the British Council Nigeria

2005 The British Council Lagos office at 20 Thompson Avenue, Ikoyi Lagos was commissioned by the then Lagos state governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu

2013 We founded the Lagos Theatre festival in 2013. It grew into one of the top 15 theatre festivals in the world and transitioned into an independently managed festival in 2018

2018 HRH Prince Charles visits the British Council Nigeria

Prince Charles visits the British Council accompanied by country director Lucy Pearson

Prince Charles visits the British Council accompanied by country director Lucy Pearson

In Nigeria, we’ve spent 75 years providing education, training and capacity building to people in the arts, enterprise, society and education sectors. We’ve provided access to global opportunities with our exams, and globally  recognised qualifications in Nigeria.

By celebrating this 75th anniversary, we are celebrating the success of our employees, our partners, our beneficiaries, and all who have been a part of this journey thus far. Thanks to you, we are 75.

Now we invite you to explore our stories, and share your memories of how we have been a part of your life in the 75 years we have been in Nigeria.

A picture of five emirs from Nigeria with a child on a donkey at London Zoo, on a trip to Britain.

Five emirs from Northern Nigeria on a 'Seeing Britain' visit. Among visits to hospitals, schools and local government was a trip to London zoo.

Participants at the Creative Enterprise Training for Hub Managers

Participants at the Creative Enterprise Training for Hub Managers

A picture of five emirs from Nigeria with a child on a donkey at London Zoo, on a trip to Britain.

Five emirs from Northern Nigeria on a 'Seeing Britain' visit. Among visits to hospitals, schools and local government was a trip to London zoo.

Participants at the Creative Enterprise Training for Hub Managers

Participants at the Creative Enterprise Training for Hub Managers

Your stories

It’s thanks to you we’ve been able to reach thousands of people over the last 75 years, with numerous programmes in areas from arts to capacity development

Ibrahim Aminu’s story

“The network of creatives I was exposed to on the Fashion DNA project is one I wouldn’t trade for anything”

As a budding fashion designer, it can be incredibly hard to make a name for yourself.

But having only established the House of Kaya brand four years previously, Ibrahim Aminu had that opportunity when he was selected for the Fashion DNA programme, as part of the UK / Nigeria season in 2015-16.

The model pictured wears one of Ibrahim's designs for House of Kaya as part of Fashion DNA

The model pictured wears one of Ibrahim's designs for House of Kaya as part of Fashion DNA

Offering a series of masterclasses, collaborative workshops and public events, Fashion DNA offered up and coming Nigerian designers a powerful platform.  

Delivered in partnership with Lagos Fashion and Design Week, and guided by the UK and Nigeria’s top figures, the scheme provided invaluable training and insight for Nigeria’s budding fashion creatives.  

Ibrahim’s designs explore both contemporary and conservative Northern Nigerian cultures and have made an impact since day one.

Fashion DNA proved to be an invaluable first step for Ibrahim. In 2015 his House of Kaya brand went on to debut on the runway of Lagos Fashion and Design week.  By 2017 he was opening the runway, and had already been engaged by numerous world-famous fashion brands in the country.

Today, House of Kaya has gained a reputation as a foremost fashion brand in Northern Nigeria.


(on the right) Photographs by Lakin Ogunbanwo. Styling by Carri Munden. Clothes by P.O.C., Red Knight, Onwuchekwa and Deji Eniola © British Council


75 years of supporting and cultivating Nigerian artists

Art in all its forms is a vital part of the British Council’s work in Nigeria, a country bubbling with imagination and talent.

An image of a model taken during fashion week

Collaborative Imaging during Fashion DNA by Kelechi Amadi-Obi and Rebekah Roy

Collaborative Imaging during Fashion DNA by Kelechi Amadi-Obi and Rebekah Roy

We’ve engaged in the creation, exchange and showcasing of the best Nigerian and British artistic content, with an emphasis on access to arts and culture for everyone.

A scene from a play involving artists living with disabilities

A scene from a play involving artists living with disabilities

Our UK/Nigeria season in 2015-2016 was the pinnacle of our 75 years in Nigeria, exemplifying how we strive to build understanding among young people in the UK and Nigeria.

With events from September 2015 to March 2017, the festival took place in cities across Nigeria including Lagos, Calabar, Abuja, Kaduna, Abeokuta and Jos, and in the UK in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Brighton.

Across the year, we engaged 40 million young Nigerians, found new audiences, and shared the very best of UK and Nigerian culture.

An exhibition of pots collaboratively designed on the “Go Woman Go” project by female ceramicists in Giri, Abuja and UK artist, Laura Aldrige during the UK/NG 2015 – 16 season

An exhibition of pots collaboratively designed on the “Go Woman Go” project by female ceramicists in Giri, Abuja and UK artist, Laura Aldrige during the UK/NG 2015 – 16 season

Photograph by Lakin Ogunbanwo. Styling by Carri Munden. Clothes by P.O.C., Red Knight, Onwuchekwa and Deji Eniola
Photograph by Lakin Ogunbanwo. Styling by Carri Munden. Clothes by P.O.C., Red Knight, Onwuchekwa and Deji Eniola

Mirabelle Morah’s Story

"Many people believe that we only live once. Maybe you don’t believe in this, maybe you do. But whichever be the case, I believe that every moment being alive is worth broadening our minds and experiencing new things. And this was exactly how I felt studying at the University of Gloucestershire"

When Mirabelle submitted her entry to the Study UK online video challenge in 2018, she never dreamed she'd end up winning a study trip to the University of Gloucestershire.

Over two jam-packed days, Mirabelle met lecturers and journalism students, toured the campus, and made friends for life. Mirabelle's experience is just one of thousands of life-changing opportunities the British Council has created for promising young Nigerians.

"The study trip gave me a great opportunity to check out my prospects of pursuing a masters degree in the UK, especially in the aspects of Digital Media, Communications and Journalism."

Mirabelle's story doesn't end there: since returning from her trip, she's been using her new knowledge to build her blog, Blank Paperz. Amplifying the voices and stories of young people, writers and activists, Blank Paperz cuts through the noise to address vital social issues from a new perspective.

On top of this, Mirabelle is now a Nigerian Country Representative for a Common Futures conversations project with The Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.


75 years of building futures

Our story is one of connection and collaboration.

With the Study UK programme, we foster dialogue and international partnerships between higher education institutions and organisations, and help students who want to study abroad.

Our work starts early, bringing the UK and Nigeria school sectors together to promote global citizenship and international trust and understanding through Connecting Classrooms.

And of course, there is storytelling, with the Common Wealth Class Children's Short Story Writing Competition, where we encourage young creative writers to explore global themes through imagination and the written word.

Though access to this array of opportunities the British Council has reached more than 60,000 people in Nigeria. 

Hon. Alice Dimlong Asajie’s story

“Active Citizens has contributed immensely to the growth of my community”

Alice Dimlong poses with her Active Citizens group in 2008

Alice Dimlong poses with her Active Citizens group in 2008

At a time when communities were divided by religious unrest, Hon. Alice Dimlong Asajie could see there was a vital need for social and religious cohesion in her home of Jos.

As part of the Active Citizens programme, Alice was able to collaborate on projects aimed at promoting peaceful co-existence between indigenes and settlers, and Muslims and Christians.  

Run by the British Council and partner organisations, Active Citizens is a social leadership programme that promotes intercultural dialogue and community-led social development.

Through the programme, we bring together people with different beliefs and perspectives to learn from and share with each other. Working with our partners around the globe, we train participants in the skills and knowledge needed to affect social change in their communities.

Alice's next step was into the world of politics, where she is she is now the Member Plateau House of Assembly representing Panshin North.


75 years of influencing policy and dialogue

Active Citizens is just one of the many programmes we’ve run in our time in Nigeria in policy and dialogue. Our work in Nigeria for the past 75 years has helped citizens and institutions contribute to a more inclusive, open and prosperous society.

The British Council has fostered thought leadership and research in key areas including education, gender and youth empowerment, influencing the policy and development agenda in Nigeria.

Sophia Ike-Onu’s story

“The Enterprise Challenge has been an incredible journey; mentally tough in so many ways but also incredibly stimulating and enjoyable.”

When she entered the Enterprise Challenge in 2016 among some 10,000 other applicants, Sophia Ika-Onu did not expect to come in first place.

But the architect, who founded The5kshop.com, a thriving online retail shop for quality fashion pieces priced below 5,000 Naira, sailed through the competition.

Sophia’s drive and passion impressed the judges, and the world-famous entrepreneur and Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson himself.

Winning a grant worth 2 million Naira, Sophia also gained a fully-funded scholarship to attend a five-day entrepreneurship foundation course at the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa.

The cherry on the cake was a mentoring session in London with Sir Richard Branson, a moment which Sophia considers a turning point in her business career.  

Pictured left: Winner Sophia Ike-Onu with Sir Richard Branson

Sophia Ike-Onu talks about Entrepreneurial Africa


75 years of developing skills and opportunities

Over the past 75 years in Nigeria the British Council has focused its energies on helping talented young Nigerians develop their entrepreneurial skills.

The Enterprise Challenge exemplifies this spirit by providing a platform for brilliant young entrepreneurial minds to further develop their skills and businesses. Young people are encouraged to bring their most innovative ideas to the table for future development.

Joke Oyebamiji,a shoe designer and creative director, tells her story from the British Council Digital Enterprise Session 2018

Our time in Nigeria has centred around developing different industries and public systems by delivering skills training and continuous professional development in the arts, enterprise, education, leadership, and more.

Changing the narrative

We've been changing lives for 75 years

Year on year, we’ve reached out to thousands of students, educators, policymakers, academics, researchers, creatives and entrepreneurs in Nigeria with our work across these sectors.

A VSO staff member with students in Nigeria, circa 1950

A VSO staff member with students in Nigeria, circa 1950

In 2018 alone, we we engaged with artists, teachers, community and faith leaders, government officials delivering two thousand project events and activities reaching:

  • 603,000 people directly
  • 2,251,217 people through digital channels
  • 51,595,570 people through broadcast channels

The Flying flotillas were selected to represent Nigeria as part of the Rivers of the world art exhibition which was showcased at the prestigious Thames festival. The “Rivers of the World” is the Thames Festival Trust’s flagship art and educational project delivered in partnership with the British Council.

The Flying flotillas were selected to represent Nigeria as part of the Rivers of the world art exhibition which was showcased at the prestigious Thames festival. The “Rivers of the World” is the Thames Festival Trust’s flagship art and educational project delivered in partnership with the British Council.

Today we work with more than 10 million people every year out of offices in Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt reaching audiences of more than 31 million.

Be part of the story

#BePartOfTheStory

Share your story with us today

Now, we call on you to share your stories of your time at the British Council over the years.

Whether you took an English exam, attended a theatre performance, or developed your entrepreneurial skills, we want to hear from you.

Across the year, to celebrate our 75th anniversary in Nigeria, and to highlight the best of UK-Nigeria connections, we’ll be adding your memories to our archives, and sharing the most inspiring stories online.

Be a part of the celebrations by submitting your story now.

#BePartOfTheStory