The people behind Fashpack: Freetown (Ep 2)

Episode 2 of Fashpack: Freetown introduces the world to upstanding members of the Freetown community – Great Hero and The Councillor. If you’ve watched the show you may already be in love with these ‘Great Pretenders’, if not press play on your IView now and be blown away by the striking originality of these two darlings.

Real life buddies – The Councillor and Great Hero

While in many ways similar, they each have their own distinct fashion preferences, The Councillor loves a brass button and uniform while Great Hero has an eclectic wardrobe that represents all corners of the globe. What they have in common is widespread adoration from the people of Freetown, they represent the underdog, the everyman, they unite people and give their community hope.

I crossed paths with Great Hero for the first time several years back in downtown Freetown. Dressed in full military garb with flavours of Buffalo Bill (the Cuban heeled boot!), this sartorial dream boat soon became a Fashpack star who was featured regularly on the blog.

The day I introduced him to our film crew we paraded around the streets of PZ market together like Kanye and Kimmy, we were both feeling all kinds of famewhore special. The crowd just couldn’t get enough of ‘EEEERO’ and he couldn’t get enough of the attention. On top of that the camera sent him into high octave performance mode.

IMG_4307Camera man Tony captures yet another moment where Great Hero stands on a chair

In our next meeting we headed back to PZ market for one of Hero’s Friday morning street sermons. Check out this ‘pure theatrical Viagra’
One of Hero’s minions in the middle reading from the Koran, Hero adds his interpretation and another pal recites Hero’s words into a crackly loud hailer. The fans were lapping it up.

We wanted to know more about this ‘administrative colossus*’ and wondered what the private life of this public figure looked like? So we headed back to his digs in Horton St. Expecting to walk into a lavish Robert Mugabe style compound, we soon discovered that Hero’s really not all that different to you and me.

*What the hell is that?

Hero is taking calls. Be sure to add +232 and get rid of the zero when calling from outside of Sierra Leone. 

Hero lives in a humble home with his family, a goat and a vicious caged dog. When he’s not preaching or brokering peace deals he’s driving his delivery van and annoying his wife.

Just your average guy, World Best, that’s our Hero.

But what sets Hero apart from the average man on the street is his unwavering confidence, breathtaking self belief and a wardrobe to match. He wakes up every morning and dresses himself in threads that allow him to live life in a way that is 100% authentic.

Immerse yourself in the magic of Great Hero in Episode 2!

Fashpack: Freetown is a six part short form documentary series that delves into the colourful world of Freetown’s most stylish people. For those in Australia you can watch it on ABC Iview, for everyone else, I’m afraid you just have to be patient. It will be coming your way in about six months.

Fashpack: Freetown – the backstory

The most important day of this decade has finally arrived, Fashpack: Freetown is now live on ABC IView Arts. Click here to enjoy!

Mariama is one of the stars of the show. She is my hero.

But before you start the binge, bare with me while I explain the fascinating (sort of) journey behind this project. Way back when I started the blog I fantasised about attracting more than 10 hits a day. When that didn’t work out I fantasised about bringing Fashpack to the small screen. I casually said to my mate Tony a filmy/writer type from Sydney “Don’t you think Fashpack would make a fun TV show”. Surprisingly he said “Yeah” and told another filmy/writer type – Benn.

We all met at the local boozer to hatch a plan. My idea was to try and bring my favourite peeps from the blog to life by exploring their worlds through the lens of style and fashion. Tony and Benn added some heavy hitting questions to this concept – How does style help people overcome adversity? How does it help people confront daily hardships? And how can a country like Sierra Leone produce a population of smoking hot fashion plates despite being rated as one of the poorest in the world?

The brat pack being brought to life

Soon enough, the boys were flying 35 hours economy class to Freetown to shoot a pitch video. It was everything we dreamed of and more. The day they arrived the power in my house was cut and didn’t return until they hopped on a plane to leave three weeks later. Tony was behind the camera, Benn directed and I was the presenter. We captured what we needed and were able to shop that little video around.

Just a group of kids trying to make a pitch video

Fancy people in the world of TV liked our pitch, but not enough to back us and most didn’t want to involve us “We’ll keep your idea thank you very much, but we want to produce it, and we have some suggestions for a host….Alexa Chung, now wouldn’t she be great, Cate Blanchett, amazing!” …Um no, please no.

So we let it rest for a bit, stuck to our guns and eventually our stricken national broadcaster the ABC, threw us a lifeline and offered us some cash to make a six part short form documentary series. The boys returned to Mama Salone for a six-week shoot last September. It didn’t quite spiral into Hearts of Darkness territory, but there were moments we came close. For the most part though it was a big calamitous adventure which capped off my four years in Sierra Leone perfectly.

Hearts of Darkness

And now after several hundred hours of post-production pain, we have produced a series.

While it’s me you will see on screen, Tony and Benn are the wind beneath my wings (they will be very grossed out by that line). Their vision, bald face grit, generous talent and emotional detachment are why we were able to deliver this project. They both contributed an outrageous number of hours which they will never get back (sorry guys) to produce a show we are all proud of. So to both of them I say Tenki plenti for you had wok on dis Fashpack bisnis.

A sensitive moment with Tony and Benn

Big thanks and warmest gratitude must also go to the talented, stylish and charismatic Sierra Leoneans who are at the heart of our stories. There is a character in the show called Slim Saal who confidently describes his fellow countrymen as “the best people in the world, better than you white people”. This is impossible to argue with.

Now go and watch it!

P.S At this stage the show is only available for viewing on the ABC Iview site. This means you have to be in Australia to see it. After six months we are hoping it will be available in another form for the rest of the world to see and most importantly for Sierra Leoneans to enjoy. In the mean time I am plotting a way for it to be screened in Freetown. Alternatively, if you have a dodgy friend who knows how to crack open a geo block then get them on it.

P.S.S Other big thanks go to: Mike Duff, Miles B, Momoh and Ibby Fixer – legends, the lot of them.