John Adewole, who died on February 18 aged 63, was a Sierra Leonean political activist and actor best known in recent years as the genie on the Sky Broadband adverts.
John Adewole as the genie in the TV advertisement for Sky Broadband
6:01PM GMT 09 Mar 2011
In 1971 Adewole put his acting skills to good use as one of a group of students who occupied the Sierra Leonean High Commission in Portland Place to gain publicity for their political grievances against the All People’s Congress Party government of Dr Siaka Stevens. Adewole managed to convince security staff that the toy pistol he was brandishing was a real one and, when the police arrived, he and his colleagues persuaded them that there had been a coup in Sierra Leone and they had been authorised by the “new regime” to take over the High Commission premises. By the time the police cottoned on to the deception, the sit-in had lasted 48 hours.
Adewole, his English girlfriend and several others subsequently went on trial at the Old Bailey charged with conspiracy to commit a trespass and unlawful assembly. They were convicted and Adewole and one other defendant were sentenced to two concurrent 12-month terms in jail, suspended for two years. Their counterparts in Freetown were not so lucky: 12 protesters were hanged for treason.
He was born Joseph Christian Adewole John in 1948 in pre-independence Sierra Leone into a middle-class family, and educated at Sierra Leone Grammar School. He worked as a youth leader to help bring Siaka Stevens’s APC to power in 1967, but he soon became disillusioned with Stevens’s dictatorial tendencies.
In the late 1960s Adewole moved to Britain to study Theatre Arts at Dartington College and, during his 20s, caused something of a scandal by embarking on an affair with Bianca Benjamin, his former economics teacher in Sierra Leone. Not only was she a decade older than he was, she was also British and white. She participated in the sit-in at the High Commission, but their relationship did not survive the Old Bailey trial.
At 6ft 5in and 16 stone, with a deep sonorous voice, Adewole went on to make a career as an actor, taking small roles in productions at the National Theatre, the Old Vic and other theatres around the country. His film credits included Ultimate Force; Ali G Indahouse (as President Oompeba); The Ebb Tide; Welcome to the Terror Dome; and Deep Freeze. Television credits included The Omid Djalili show; Escape from Kampala; and the BBC3 comedy series Little Miss Jocelyn.
Ahmad Tejan Kabbah 20 Mar 2014
Adewole ran a bookshop in Brixton and also became artistic director of the Zuriya Theatre Company – a collective of storytellers who perform in schools, youth clubs and community centres. As well as telling African and Caribbean stories, he was a dab hand with the congas, kabassa and djembe.
His last campaign was to try to save South Norwood library from closure.
John Adewole is survived by his wife and five children.