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  • Celebrating-Somersets-Creative-And-Cultural-Practitioners-Jusna-Mustafa

Celebrating Somerset’s creative & cultural practitioners... Jusna Mustafa

posted 05 Jun 2024
Celebrating Somerset’s creative & cultural practitioners... Jusna Mustafa

In the latest a series of monthly blogs celebrating Somerset’s creative & cultural practitioners, our Arts Engagement & Outreach Officer Nick White meets…

Jusna Mustafa


Photo above: Jusna Mustafa

At my stepdaughter’s school, they’re preparing for the Olympics by having a themed week.  On one of the days, she has been challenged with dressing up as ‘culture’.  Slightly flabbergasted, at home we’ve been trying to explain what the concept of culture means.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines culture as “the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.”  Despite her fascination with the World at large, culture can be a tricky abstract construct for a nine-year old to grasp, especially for one growing up in rural Somerset.

Yeovil’s Jusna Mustafa has found the perfect way of celebrating global & local culture.  This July, Yeovil Together will return to Westlands Entertainment Venue.  Last year 2,000 people from across the town, Somerset, Dorset & the World came, bringing with them an explosion of food, colour, music and joi de vivre.  It’s a unique moment in Yeovil’s calendar where you have permission to be who you are.  Where everyone is the same for being different.  Where people from everywhere and anywhere are encouraged to wear their own national dress, to show off their national food or belt out their national music at the top of their lungs. It’s culture, and then some.


Photo Above: Jusna at the Yeovil Together event at Westlands Entertainment Venue,Yeovil. Photo credit - Len Copland.

I’ve known of Jusna for a few years but we only finally managed to have our first deep & meaningful conversation this March, at Chard Together.  A similar event to its Yeovil namesake, delivered with an exuberance only Chard knows, Jusna and The Chard Together Team spent months coordinating an incredible jigsaw of community groups for whom pride of heritage and identity is palpable.  We chatted for ten minutes in the wings of the stage, me clutching a knot of microphone cables, both of us vibing from the passion of the performers, audiences and attendees. Everyone there, lives for their roots which lie across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas. But their pride extends to where home is: Chard.  Yeovil.  Somerset.

A former social worker, Jusna works for Somerset Diverse Communities, a project within the Community Council for Somerset.  She conceived of Yeovil Together post-pandemic as an opportunity to bring people together, to create avenues for communities from diverse backgrounds living in Somerset, to be themselves.  Alongside Yeovil Together and Chard Together, Jusna has supported the development of local town centre Cultural Days: in Yeovil’s Quedam, and at Chard Museum which have become an important part of each town’s fabric.  It’s no surprise that food and performance sit hand in hand at these events.

Jusna has always lived in Yeovil. Like her family, she is Bangladeshi. As we speak, she’s remarkably open about the experience of these cultures coming together.  “It was difficult growing up in a town where you were the visible minority. Covert and overt racism was an everyday occurrence you just accepted.”  She pauses.  “Imagine that, every day of your life.  Every day you are so conscious that you are different; that you don’t fit.  To achieve something like Yeovil Together or Chard Together, or the Cultural Days, you need community buy-in.  It takes time, patience, and open mindedness, and you can’t do it from the top down.  It takes passionate people within those communities to make it happen.”

We talk about conscious and unconscious bias.  We talk about communication and language.  We talk about an experience that on reflection I know I’ll never have: of being a non-English speaking female from the global majority in Somerset. 

Jusna is a great connector, bringing people from all walks of life together, to have conversations with each other, to help each other, to learn from each other. 

In a nutshell, that’s culture. Spaces where one can fly, wear or wave their flag, without fear of prejudice. Where we can dare to be unique. Where we can dare to be ourselves.


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