Dawn Denton, owner of Celebrate, has taken what was a small South African get-together and grown it to a Southern African brand. The brand now includes a market, a hugely successful blog and a podcast which is available on iTunes, Spotify, RadioPublic, Stitcher and Castbox.
Where are you from?
Dawn was born in Nelspruit but grew up in Joburg where she went to Risidale Primary School. She then went to boarding school in Potchefstroom for high school, which was one of the happiest times of her life. As an only child, she absolutely loved boarding school. Being able to play sport every day and have her friends around her 24/7 was brilliant!
Where do you currently live?
Today Dawn lives in Frome, Somerset, UK. The region is beautiful with rolling hills and lots of really very white sheep (South African sheep are much dirtier than British sheep. It’s the rain! The sheep in Somerset are so clean!) The county is famous for cider, and Cheddar (the home to cheddar cheese of course), the Frome Festival and the Glastonbury Festival.
And now the West Country is known for the famous annual Celebrate Southern Africa market 🙂
How did you end up living here?
Dawn met her British partner, Dan, when they were both tour directors. They met in a car park in St Ives in Cornwall – now that’s another story 😉 Dan grew up in the South West and was living in Frome. In 2012 Dawn worked at the London Olympics, as a National Olympic Committee Assistant with the South African team, which included Oscar Pistorius. That is another story too!). It worked out better financially for Dawn to move to Frome then (while not earning at the Olympics). And so, in Frome she now has her home.
How long have you been in the UK?
Dawn arrived in the UK in January 1995. From now on, every day she is here in the UK, is a day more than she lived in South Africa.
Where else have you lived in the UK?
Dawn has lived all over London – Clock House, Beckenham, East Finchley, Bromley and Surbiton. Her time in East Finchley was when she reconnected with her South African spirit. She lived in a huge share-house with Esme and Denis Goldberg. (Denis was imprisoned at the Rivonia Trial with Nelson Mandela. His wife Esme had lived in exile in the UK since the trial).
What work do you do?
Dawn is a trained Physical Education teacher but has left teaching (twice). She was a tour director with Contiki Holidays, Trafalgar Tours and Australian Pacific Touring (taking tour groups around Europe, the Balkans, Russia, UK, Ireland and Morocco), and is a qualified London City guide.
Dawn runs two online brands selling a range of products and gifts on Amazon, mostly in the US. She also blogs, writes a little (fiction and non-fiction) and she presents three radio shows on FromeFM Community Radio: the World of Writers, the Corona Diaries and The Dawn Diary
Podcasting & blogging are Dawn’s passions so she teaches these online and in-person as well as social media. For those who want to lead historic walking tours in their town, Dawn teaches Walking Tour Guiding online. She present talks and workshops at business and cultural events (recently at the Wells Festival of Literature). Dawn is also a member and on the Executive Committee of the South African Chamber of Commerce UK and is the Chamber Chapter Leader for the West Country.
But she is most proud of being the owner of Celebrate Southern Africa.
How did Celebrate Southern Africa come to life?
After spending 16 years in London, I moved to Frome, Somerset, UK 6 years ago. I felt lonely in an unfamiliar environment, so I reached out to my Southern African community in the area on Twitter.
Our people, no matter where we are, naturally come together as a ‘family’ and share in all that makes us special, and thus the Celebrate Southern African market was born.
I wanted Southern African families, friends and small businesses to rekindle memories, share experiences and support others. Our third hugely successful market is on Sunday 24th June 2016, in Frome, Somerset. Over 2,000 people and over 60 businesses come together every year from around the UK and Ireland to share our culture with art, crafts, skills, products, home décor, clothing, accessories, and most importantly food and drink – biltong and boerie, melktert and koeksisters (oh, how they evoke memories of ouma, warm the heart, and remind us of our love for the place that will always be our home).
The market still runs every year, but more recently in Trowbridge in Wiltshire. Some visitors to the market come for the day and some come for the weekend. You are invited.
What do you love about being a South African and owner of Celebrate?
Today Celebrate Southern Africa the brand has grown to include the market and this hugely popular website.
My love for stories came from a Zulu lady who worked at my nursery school in Pretoria in the early 1970s. As small children we spent hours listening to her wonderfully engaging tales of her people and she taught me my first song, ‘Mary had a little lamb’ in Zulu. The second was ‘Die Stem’ which I learnt at nursery school in Delmas.
To bring those stories back into my life and to share them with Southern Africans around the world, I decided to grow this website. It is jam-packed with only positive stories, history, African tales, articles about and by amazing Southern Africans, recipes and so much more. You are invited to contribute.
“Being African gives me an immense sense of pride. This pride brings us together. I love that South Africans are so entrepreneurial and have a deep desire to succeed. They are brave enough to leave all we know and love (especially African sunsets) behind and start from scratch in a new country. I admire South Africans and love that I have Africa flowing in my veins! And I love love love biltong which I think makes me a pretty good and patriotic Saffa!”
As Southern African in Africa, or in far-flung places around the world where we have made our homes, we find comfort in coming together as family and friends – and YOU are invited.
What’s your favourite quote?
Dawn’s inspiration comes from our beloved Madiba:
“It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”