A WESTBURY resident, famous for starting the ‘Release Mandela’ campaign in the UK, is promoting South African tourism in the town that he labels ‘the best place to live’.
Julian Bahula, a South African native who now lives in Westbury, is well known in South Africa for his musical talents as a drummer, composer and bandleader. His spread of the ‘Release Mandela’ campaign in the UK and Europe started in 1970.
In 1983, following a phone call to Nelson Mandela’s wife at that time, Winnie Mandela, Julian Bahula organised ‘African Sounds’ with the Anti-Apartheid Movement, a concert at Alexandra Palace to mark the 65th birthday of Nelson Mandela. The concert drew a 3,000-strong audience and raised the international profile of Mandela and other political prisoners.
The late Hugh Masekela, who wasn’t known in the UK at the time, performed and gained a huge following after his performance, with Julian his first promoter.
After his release, Nelson Mandela called Julian home but when he arrived, he was involved in a car accident, crushing his skull and hip. Following surgery in South Africa, he came back to the UK for his hip replacement.
His home in London had to be sacrificed for a bungalow, as he could no longer climb stairs. Luckily for him, he says, one was available in Westbury.
Having now settled in the town, Julian wishes he had moved here sooner.
He said, “I am very happy in Westbury. I feel more creative when I am here, the people are very inspiring.
“Everywhere I go, people always wave and say hello. You don’t get that in London. I say, you can take anything away from me, but keep me in Westbury, it’s the best place to live.”
In 2012, President of South Africa at the time, Jacob Zuma, presented Julian with the Order of Ikhamanga, for achievements in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism, and sports.
Picture: Julian Bahula with Leander Morales, handing out bags for SANBI, promoting South African tourism.