Tell us about your background
I was the second daughter and fourth of eight children born to Jose and Onike Fashole-Luke, of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
I went to St Joseph’s Primary and Secondary schools in Freetown and showed immense love for music and drama. In fact, at a very tender age I began writing stories, poems, plays and composing songs.
As my interest in music and drama grew, my mum had a well-known band in Sierra Leone, The Ticklers, to back me as I sang. I represented my school in many Inter School Classical Music quiz programmes and I became a member of the Children’s Corner Club on radio.
Hartley Cowan the producer of the Radio Variety, invited me along with other youngsters to sing on his show. Mum paid $200, required by the Song Writers Associates in Broadway, New York to press two of my songs. Intelligent Love and My Ambition. Intelligent Love was pressed and sent to me, but they requested a more romantic one for the flip side. Intelligent Love was played several times on radio. My Ambition detailed what I wanted to be.
I started working at the National Radio Station but crossed over to television which had more attraction for me. I was auditioned by the American General Manager Vance Hallack, and that very day he took me on as a presenter. It was from Sierra Leone Television that I left under a Government Scholarship for Glasgow.
What was it like studying in Glasgow?
I have no regrets whatsoever. I had the time of my life with some of the nicest people.
Doing exactly what I dreamed of since childhood gave me tremendous joy. I was one of three black students when I started, the other two, also from Sierra Leone, were in their final year.
Initially the gloom of the dark grey buildings and the cold weather appeared challenging. But the warmth and friendliness of people and the special friends I made, dulled those dreary moments and I no longer felt the distance from home. My close friends remained the ones I made in my year, we studied and rehearsed together at every available opportunity.
I particularly enjoyed Ballet lessons with Maureen, Acting with Grace Matchett and Gerard Slevin, even with Colin Chandler. Each had their own style of teaching, but they were all hands on. I always looked forward to voice classes with Mary Stuart where we did a lot of breathing exercises to prepare us for performing on stage.
My diction improved greatly after classes with John Coulson and my delivery too. Maturity in my speech was obvious and when I went to London after an invite from the BBC to present one of their weekly programmes, Calling Sierra Leone. My mum was delighted to hear my voice and wrote to me about the improved tone and the difference in my presentation. She was proud of me.
How did your time at RSAMD prepare you for the world of work?
I was on top of the world at the end of the course, realising that I had achieved my dream.
Learning accents was a thrill. I went to some shops and chatted with people to pick up their accent.
I had the opportunity to act as an extra several times before graduation.
The rigorous training served me well. When I returned home years later in 1971, I was immediately put in charge of music and drama for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service, a department that had almost been non-existent before I arrived.
I was also made a Senior Producer with responsibility for seven programmes a week. I developed what I called Development Oriented Drama, to open the eyes of the Government and community to what could make for the betterment of Sierra Leone.
Many local actors were trained by me and have prospered. I still write poetry and songs. How I wish I had studied music and drama as I am blessed with composing songs, but I can’t play instruments.
What have been your most memorable moments from your career so far?
I was the first woman to serve as Director General of National Radio and Television in Sierra Leone.
I was presented with Broadcaster of the Year in 1988 and 1989, witnessed by the President and other state dignitaries, at Siaka Stevens Stadium, as the country celebrated International Women’s Day.
I was voted Woman of the Year in 1990 by the Students’ Union at The University of Sierra Leone, for my contribution not only to drama, entertainment and other creative programmes on radio and television, but also for being a role model they could emulate.
I was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 for my services to music and drama in Sierra Leone.