Bridgwater Together Saturday 12th November 2022

Bridgwater Together-a room full of flags

Bridgwater Together is now an annual feature of Bridgwater’s Community Events . Organised by the Bridgwater Together committee led by Michal Puzynski from Poland and Vivyan Rybertt from Chile, the project is sponsored by Bridgwater Town Council, Somerset Diverse Communities, Somerset Film, Fuse performance, HPC Community Fund, UNITE the Union and Bridgwater Trades Union Council. The event was staged in Bridgwater Town Hall. In the Charter Hall, there were a range of talks and in the main Hall 26 different stalls from community groups, live music on stage and food of any nations served up from the kitchen. On top of this, Somerset Film had a room set aside for filmed interviews and there were even people offering Covid jabs plus a special room dedicated to Prayer (not related). Several hundred people passed through the Town Hall during the course of the day which ran from 11am to 3pm.

Mayor Liz leavy opens the event

When you arrive at Bridgwater Town Hall for ‘Bridgwater Together Day you have literally no idea where you are. Flags of 100 nations greet you and the aroma of world cuisine from the Ukraine to  East Timor to Poland similarly. Although, the dominant theme today seemed to be the cabbage content of Polish national delicacy ‘Bigos’.


Cheerful flourescent jacketed bouncers waited at the door to gently throw you in to the building to be greeted immediately by the British Army in the shape of Major Ram Bahadur Pun putting the case for ‘strength in diversity’, who had picked the prime spot as first contact.

The Army and The Police

The stair lift friendly staircase that took you up to the Bridgwater room past giant portraits of past Bridgwater Mayors, all elderly, white and with massive sideburns – more strength in diversity no doubt, to the Bridgwater Room where Somerset Film had set up to do filmed interviews with people. And if that was too much, you could just pop to the room next door and get a walk in Covid vaccination, on this occasion administered by former Mayoress Lily Heywood. 2 doors down and we set up a special room for persons of any faith wishing to take the matter directly to their maker of choice.


Mayor Leavy with footballistas

Down stairs and the theatre was in full swing. You could absorb the whole range of Bridgwater culture and community in our wander round the main hall. Whether it was the Bridgwater United football outreach project and some large disturbing red dragon mascot with a  dozen footballs bouncing off it from the mini world cup of nations junior soccer fans springing up around the room- and I did try to show them how exactly to play football-but it’s not great when you’re tackled by a 5 year old..or if it’s the Healthwatch stall, the Diversity Voice stall or the nice lady from Plymouth who got you to stick stickers on a flip chart asking if everything was lovely or not. Seems it was.

Around the room tables filled with ephemera from many nations -Ukrainian, Polish, Timorese, Bulgarian,. Couldn’t find any Welsh? Maybe the red dragon? No. Another football hits me.

Music and More Music

Songs of all nations on the stage

And in the kitchen, after what seemed like a 2 and a half hour wait . Which in fact it was. Anna and her team from the engine room, Ken, Glen and Len, dished up free grub for everyone. That could get to it before it was gone.

On stage there was a fast moving whirlwind of performers. All the right musicians, but not necessarily in the right order. Alan Edwards under the name ‘steely D’ played some steely drums, Mariusz Wojtera tapped away some atmospheric keyboard melodies, and Claude ‘The Enchanter’ sang a mix of self written and cover numbers to his soulful guitar backing,

And then onto the stage came 4 East Timorese dancers , 3 Ukrainian musicians, 2 Polish pianioflautists and 1 bloke called Jon from the Glastonbury area playing Irish jigs . All life on Planet Music was here.

Talking, singing, watching and eating

Polish, Ukrainian and timorese stalls under Slovakian, Scottish and German flags.

And all musical forms were here side by side, as were the people who came from all corners of the earth. Duo de Camera (Kamila and Katarzyna) played jazz classics on a keyboard and on a flute -from ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ to  ‘Take Five’ whilst wearing bowler hats. Not, to my knowledge Polish national dress, but who could tell who was who anyway. Monika Garbien also played a blues derived , harmonican driven set of powerful R’nB with 2 Polish guys backing her, while from Ukraine ,Marina Kalachova,  played brilliant classical motifs on her keyboard, Viktoriya Lischynska sang a moving folk piece and guitarist Vyacheslav Poglubko even managed to throw in some James Blunt.

In the Charter Hall, there was a space for talks, films and workshops. Nadja McDevitt showed  her film ‘Moments of Stillness’ Tanya and Lee talked about who exactly Healthwatch were, Janine Evans ran a ‘Faith and belief’ session, Michael Loader ran a workshop ‘playing with words’ and the British Army managed to turn a 20 minute piece on ‘strength in diversity’ into a 50 minute piece on the same. But when has the British Army ever been known to over stay it’s welcome..

No to Hate Crime

East Timorese take to the stage as a protest against Race Hate

Finally there was  a session by SARI -the Somerset Anti Racism Initiative, who ran a sequence on ’empowerment on Hate Crime’.  SARI also had a stall where people could go with their problems. Similarly the Police had a presence and their Hate Crime section led by Sara Norman was in attendance. This is exactly the kind of area that Bridgwater Together was set up to work on. During the week Bridgwater Town Council has also launched our own ‘Police and Public Safety Forum’ where issues raised by the public could be put directly to the Police . This had been very successful and issues raised by the East Timor community relating to a particular attack were especially focused on. It was a surprise then when members of the East Timor Community took to the stage unannounced at the Bridgwater Together event to denounce the number of race hate incidents in the town-especially  in the light of Police figures brought out at the meeting earlier in the week showing that it was dropping and well below the national average here.  It didn’t of course take much for the entire room to agree with the view that Race Hate and Hate Crime are bad things and we should d0 all in our power to put an end to them.