'I have never felt so welcomed': How Pilton is building links between Somerset and Africa

THE High Commissioner of Botswana got a taste of West Country culture during his first visit to Somerset – when he met Glastonbury Festival founder, Michael Eavis.

More than 100 guests came together to celebrate the art, food and music of Southern Africa in Pilton last week in honour of the visit by High Commissioner of Botswana, John Seakgosing.

And he was greeted by the Somerset village’s own ‘chief’, Mr Eavis, who hailed the event “the best thing that has happened in this wonderful village since the festival”.

The occasion saw the launch of X-Change, a new cultural venture by Pilton residents aimed at bringing Somerset people together with those from Africa, creating links, fostering mutual understanding and encouraging closer ties between Botswana and the UK.

“I’m blown away by the warmth of the welcome here,” said Rev Dr Seakgosing.

“Art is the umbilical cord which connects nations in friendship. This is how we express ourselves.

“There is nothing better than gathering people together to get to know each other. I am deeply impressed by this event.”

Organiser Nkele Montshiwa, who staged the event at her Pilton home, said: “In 25 years of living and raising a family in the UK I have never felt so welcomed as I feel in Pilton.”

She encouraged guests – half from African countries, half from Somerset – to enjoy the traditional Botswanan food, exhibitions, music and dancing.

A SOMERSET WELCOME: From Nkele Montshiwa and Michael Eavis

Visitors were invited to sit around a camp fire in a ‘Kgotla’, a circle of seats which embodies the Botswana tradition of democracy, where village leaders hear and discuss matters of importance to their communities, collectively making decisions about justice and the law.

It works so well that MPs from Europe have been visiting the country to get tips.

As she walked across the car parking field to the event, the High Commissioner’s wife, Lulu, quipped that her hosts had come “from the bush in Botswana to the bush in the UK”.

She then entertained her fellow guests by picking up the traditional African broom to sweep the floor of the Art Barn gallery.

TRADITION: Lulu Seasgosing sweeps the Art Barn Gallery with a traditional African broom

Pilton is famous as home to the Eavis family’s Worthy Farm, home of the Glastonbury Festival, which attracts an international crowd of artists, musicians, performers and journalists to its fields each year.

In the same spirit, multi-cultural visitors to the X-Change event sat around the fire long into the evening discussing how to strengthen the links between our nations and communities.

“This is just the beginning,” said a tired but happy Nkele.

“We have laid the foundations for many exciting X-Change projects to come – watch this space!”

By Paul Jones

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