Let’s go to England! This short story is about my friend James who is involved in a quite interesting form of tourism. James is supporting a small, remote, organic livestock farm situated on over 40 hectares of green hillside in the heart of the British countryside.
Interested? Yes!?! That’s good! So, what is he doing there and what is this farm all about?
1. Keeping alive Somali lifestyle
As the farm is situated in one of the wettest climates in Europe it may seem an unlikely destination for those interested in learning about the history, pastoral traditions and culture of the nomads of Sub-Saharan Africa. However, at Hangingheld farm Hamish Wilson – farmer, photographer, writer, lecturer and broadcaster specialising in Somali culture and affairs – and his family have successfully hosted hundreds of Somalis in groups of up to 40 at one time at their farm. And why? Well, first of all it is important to know that there is a large number of people with a Somali Background living in the UK of which a lot of them do not know a lot about their roots, their culture or Somalia as a country. So, Hamish and his family do this in belief that “visits to the farm featuring the history and culture of rural life in both Britain and Somalia could not only assist older Somalis in the UK to integrate more fully into their adopted country, but also inspire younger generations who are also living in Britain to be proud of their Somali identity”.
2. Overcoming stereotyping and bringing people together
And now sustainable tourism comes into play. This seasonal encampment located near the Herefordshire border with Wales on a working farm rich in rare wildlife, flowers and trees attracted my friend James, as a venue to begin bringing mixed nationality groups of visitors in to not only support cross-cultural understanding but also to experience the Somali way of life. Each Somali-style tent sleeps up to seven adults comfortably. And for the preparation and enjoyment of food, relaxation, singing and dancing, talks, discussions and demonstrations, huge circular tents are combined to create a fantastic living space with a fully equipped kitchen, water heaters, benches and tables, roaring wood fires, a projector and sound system.
The chance to choose from a diverse menu of activities, of fresh, locally sourced food, of talks relating to culture, pastoral communities, oral traditions such as poetry and songs, travel, settlements, water, land ownership and storytelling has demonstrated to be similarly successful with the international groups of visitors that James and Hamish have introduced to the farm.
It has proved extremely effective in its aim to present a positive image of the Somali people `beyond the pirates, warlords and terrorists they see on the news and in Google search results`, a positive image of Wales beyond sheep farming, rain, rugby and male voice choirs, and offered people from all over the world the chance of sharing their travel stories and experiencing varied aspects of rural life in Britain.
Big thank you to Hamish, his family and James who are creating a strong sense of identity for Somalis in Britain and helping in building a cultural bridge here!