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Gipu Felix-George:Tribute to a remarkable Media Man

By  | 30 April 2019 at 14:16 | 2413 views

Gipu Felix-George: Tribute to a remarkable Media Man

Radio broadcasters are often known more by their voices – and for their voices. In person, I tend to find them smaller in stature when compared to the image I had in mind. An example, for me, was Elizabeth Blunt of the BBC. Her voice was larger than life as she tracked the last days of Samuel Doe in Liberia in September 1990. When I finally saw her, Elizabeth Blunt was not as big in stature as I had imagined her. The was not the case with Gipu Felix-George, who passed away in London Sunday April 29 2019.

GFG as we knew him, was big, tall, and all muscle. I was not surprised to learn that he was an athlete as a youth. Sport broadcaster Daniel Oldfield who was much closer to Gipu tells me that the man had a long-standing record in shot putt as a student at the Sierra Leone Grammar School in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

I first met Gipu Felix-George (pictured) up close in mid-1989. He had become Director-General of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and he was putting together a corps of new broadcasters. With the likes of late Toni (Antonia) French and Hannah Neale as trainers about 23 of us were recruited at the old New England Ville radio station.

My fellow trainees included Donald During, Olive Sawyerr, Daniel Moseray, Dwight Short, Leonard Ken-Davies, Benedict Sam (Benglo), Brenda Briggs, Angus George-Taylor, and John Gbla. I spoke and read too quickly so I was sent to become a continuity announcer. For our final exams, Nemata Kampana was my teammate; with her as news reader. The late Otis Parkinson Thomas may have been one of the other trainees but he was probably an experienced radio man joining us for a refresher course.

Gipu would come around and talk to us once in a while. He said very little and listened intently. He had his two-way radio with him all the time. My guess was that he would listen to broadcasts and give his feedback – or reprimand – promptly. He kept his distance like the able administrator he was; trusting his chosen trainers French and Neale to shepherd us through the course. Gipu was a genius at picking his team and delegating tasks. Hannah Neale and Antonia French were accomplished radio voices and Gipu allowed them to do what they loved – and did best.

We took classes as one group; coming in the evenings. I was a teacher at Government Model School at Circular Road in Freetown. Since it was the third term holiday, I had ample time to come to the studios and hang around experienced folks like Patricia Macauley, Adun Wilson, Maada Marka Swaray, Thomas T-Boy Sannoh, and Dennis Smith. These were the times I would come around the area where GFG had his offices. It seemed he hardly ever sat at his desk; always on the move. He was like the football players he covered with his legendary voice; looking for space to optimize their next move – on or off the ball.

I found out two other enviable qualities with which God endowed Gipu Felix-George. Apart from his radio personality; he was humble and he had a great sense of humour. Up close Gipu was funny; he would make fun of himself as easily as he would tease others in his company. Years after our days at SLBS, probably in 1995, I had taken up newspaper journalism while holding a full time teaching job. Gipu had become an executive at UNICEF. I had the honour to take a trip with him around that time. It was to cover a humanitarian project in the Lungi area and we boarded his UNICEF vehicle; a 4-wheel-drive Toyota Hilux.

Gipu thought nothing of swapping seats with the only lady in the contingent; a lady who I don’t remember now. I was awe struck; seating shoulder-to-shoulder with the Great GFG. The feeling did not last long; for I was nearly bursting my sides with laughter. He told one joke, waited for us to digest it. Then, as we would be coming round to discussing the trip ahead, he would release another one. All the time, Gipu would barely smile.

I had always wanted to meet him again in person; probably get some firsthand accounts of the good old days of SLBS radio broadcasting. This is not to be. So I would mourn him and console his family in my own little way.

I would remember Gipu for all the good he did as a media man and as a mentor.
I will join in celebrations of his life and times.

On behalf of all media mates who share my emotions at his passing, I will offer this piece as my tribute a man who was as big in stature and voice as he was big in his heart.

Rest in peace, GFG.