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Sade Banks

Meet Sade

Sade Banks 

Founder & CEO  

The story of your name 

My mum named me after her favourite singer, Sade who was the musical backdrop to her relationship with my dad. My name means ‘honor bestows the crown’ and if you were pronouncing it correctly, as it’s intended in Nigeria, you would say ‘sha-day’ (which I fully accept from any Nigerian Aunty). However, I am a London born mixed heritage Jamaican, so I pronounce it ‘shar-day’. 

Your role & what it means on a day-to-day basis

My role has flexed and adapted as the organisation has grown since I founded it in 2016. I too have grown alongside it and it often feels like Sour Lemons is my first baby! Like any Founder, with fire in their belly, I have rolled up my sleeves and done whatever was needed to keep us afloat: washing dishes after events, securing investment, holding a young leader while they process trauma, creating policies through failures, building a website with YouTube tutorials, midnight finance sweats, designing and running Making LEMONADE (while pregnant!) and of course, making the truth irresistible and converting everyone in my sphere to get behind the vision – even and especially when I wanted to sink under my covers. 

Last year we launched Enabling Environments and I wrote the methodology for why and how we disrupt systemic racism in the cultural sector. We called out for fellow agitators and found a badass team who are hyped by the vision and ready to dismantle. My role now is to create an environment that allows them to thrive and deliver as their best selves without me. I am focussing on the internal culture, making sure that we practice what we preach and our external communications so we share our story and learnings with more people. Obviously I’ll keep hustling, we are working towards a sustainable business model which means not relying on one source of income and a structure that doesn’t lean too much on one person. To truly lead with radical generosity is to prioritise wellbeing and ensure that the work is not delivered at the expense of anyone’s health. 

Which of the principles of travel you align with most and why 

A Mandate to Disrupt (for obvious reasons!) but specifically, it makes me think of my time in formal education. I hated school because it didn’t challenge me enough. By year nine, I had been permanently excluded from two secondary schools and had accumulated over eighty suspensions and exclusions.

I was sent to a Pupil Referral Unit and then asked to leave and was sent to the local Youth Offending Team. At this point I dropped out of school altogether for a year and didn’t go back until I was fifteen (year eleven). In my first two schools, as a punishment, I was banned from drama, art, dance and music and told that ‘I was not creative’, ‘I asked too many questions’ and ‘I challenged authority’. The irony! 

It took me a really long time to unlearn these experiences, to give myself permission to be creative, to ask unlimited questions and to challenge the static. Which is why my second principle has to be an A Desire to Learn and Evolve; to sit in a constant cycle of imagination. I realise now that the education system was never designed for someone like me; someone who is inherently collaborative, who learns by testing and failing, who gains comfort from movement, who is curiously confident and who dreams with audacity. 

In case you were wondering, I completed my only full year of education in year eleven and left with eleven GCSE’s A*-C – higher than the national average and at the time, the highest results in my school’s history. I am not denying my intelligence but this result came from learning to beat a test, not flexing my abundant imagination and creative leadership, which says more about the flaws in the education system than it does about my genius qualities. 

The way that you ground yourself 

I dance like no one is watching. I breathe intentionally. I list the people and things that I am grateful for. I daydream about alternative realities and tap into the wisdom of people who inspire me!  

Something you are proud of 

Becoming the version of myself that the younger me didn’t have permission to dream of. 

Raising my tiny human, Faith Ocean, who is my light and my teacher.

The very point of Sour Lemons is to disrupt the status quo, to not ask permission to sit at a table, to create our own one.

I feel really proud of what we’ve achieved, grateful to every person that has walked alongside us and privileged to be a guardian of this mission. 

Outside of Sour Lemons

I’m an advisor to the Freelands Foundation and sit on their Diversity Action Group. I was a Clore Cultural Fellow in 2020 and I am currently completing my research on how systemic racism manifests in the cultural sector.

I’m a professional joy seeker and spend my free time doing things I want to do as opposed to things I feel I should be doing. In practice this means listening to my heart and my body and surrounding myself with good people, food, music and laughter.

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