On Monday 12 March, a group of Rainbows, Brownies and Guides from Stockport and Cheshire Border County made the exciting journey down to London to join 700 children and young people from across the UK in celebration of Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey. The event is the largest annual multi-faith Service in the UK and was attended by Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, accompanied by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle and other senior Members of The Royal Family.
The guiding units were also involved in a number of extra special initiatives as part of the celebrations. Prior to the service, 1st Bramhall Guides attended the ‘Commonwealth Big Lunch’ at 10 Downing Street, meeting young people from different schools and youth groups. Whilst 3rd Elworth Guides had the privilege of visiting Buckingham Palace and receiving a private tour of Westminster Palace. During the service, 4th Poynton Brownies proudly carried the Commonwealth flag as part of the procession and 3rd Cheadle Heath Rainbows had the honour of presenting Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle with a bouquet of flowers.
The Commonwealth Service celebrated the 2018 Commonwealth theme of ‘Towards a Common Future,’ looking forward to The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London this Spring. The aim of the Service was to celebrate the unity, diversity and linkages of the modern Commonwealth and foster greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s achievements and role.
Katie Hannah, a member of 1st Bramhall Guides, said: “Girlguiding has given me so many great opportunities, and the Commonwealth Service and Lunch at 10 Downing Street was definitely a once in a lifetime experience which I will never forget. We met lots of different people from all over Britain, and I’m really grateful for being able to represent Girlguiding and this incredible experience.
Sue Beck, County Commissioner for Stockport County, said: “When they tell you Girlguiding takes you to places you never dreamt of I didn’t think that place would be 10 Downing Street and Westminster Abbey. What an absolute honour and a privilege to sing the National Anthem in uniform as the Queen walks past, a truly magical memory that will stay with me forever.”
Highlights of the Service included a special performance by UK artist Liam Payne and a reflection by Dr Andrew Bastawrous, an eye surgeon who turned a smartphone into an examination tool that works to combat avoidable blindness in developing counties. The event also featured performances by Jaspreet Kaur, an award-winning spoken word artist, the London-based collective of Ghanaian musicians and dancers, One-Drum, the Portsmouth Gospel Choir, finalists in BBC One’s Pitch Battle television show, and the Ngāti Rānana London Maori Club. Guests of honour among the 2,000 strong congregation will include the UK Prime Minister, The Rt. Hon Theresa May MP, the Prime Minister of Malta, The Hon Dr Joseph Muscat MP, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland QC, alongside senior politicians, dignitaries and diplomatic representatives from across the UK and Commonwealth, faith leaders and over 800 school children and young people.
Commonwealth Day has been celebrated across the Commonwealth, every year since the 1970s. In recent years, there has been a shift away from celebrating a single day towards celebrating Commonwealth Week, with Commonwealth Day at its centre. The aim is to celebrate the unity, diversity and links of the modern Commonwealth and to foster greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s achievements and role, particularly among young people.