This Commonwealth Day, 700 young people from schools and youth groups across the United Kingdom attended the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey. The Service is the world’s premier inter-faith event celebrating the Commonwealth of Nations and took place in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth and Senior Members of The Royal Family, the UK Prime Minister, High Commissioners, Commonwealth dignitaries and invited guests.

A diverse range of young people from all four home nations travelled to London to participate in the Service, with 85 primary and secondary school groups including eleven groups of children with special educational needs joining the event. Towards the Society’s aim of facilitating the attendance of children from further afield, 87 children were provided with travel bursaries aimed at increasing participation from areas of the UK that have not previously attended. These children were also provided with an exclusive tour of Westminster Abbey on the day of the Service learning about the Abbey's former and current connects to the Commonwealth. 

Each school and youth group received a ‘goody bag’ of educational resources, designed to introduce young people to the Commonwealth, it’s values and promote literacy and active citizenship more broadly. These materials were donated by National Citizen Service, Moomin, the UK Parliament, The Royal Society of Literature and Young Citizens. Each of these organisations provide learning tools and opportunities to young people and we were delighted to work with them to provide these resources.

The Service began with the procession of representatives of the faith communities and representatives of the Churches. These processions were followed by a procession of the Commonwealth flags, with all 54 Commonwealth nations represented by a young person nominated by either their High Commission, the Association of Commonwealth Universities or the Pacific Islands Society of the UK and Ireland. Each of these individuals were nominated due to their contributions to their communities. Among the flag bearers was Alvin Owusu-Fordwuo, the flag bearer for Ghana, who was recognised for founding ‘The Advantage Group’, a social enterprise that has supported over 500 disadvantaged young people through mentorships and skills development workshops.

We were honoured to welcome The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, who were represented by performers from the Pipers Trail, Hjaltibonhoga and Tattoo Dance Company and performed outside the Great West Door welcoming guests to the Abbey. The Griffin Schools Commonwealth Choir and the Purcell School’s Brass Quintet also performed prior to the Service, entertaining the young people in the Nave. These young performers have pan-Commonwealth heritage and were identified by Commonwealth Resounds, which supports collaborative partnerships and performances with a special focus on youth and the developing world.

“This year’s service really connected with the children, I think having young figures...really helped this. Anthony being a successful sports personality and Suli a poet from North London, where we are based, had an huge impact on them, supporting them in believing that they can achieve."                                                      
St Edmunds School 


Following the arrivals of Members of The Royal Family and the procession of Her Majesty The Queen and Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, the 700 young people watched performances by One-Drum and Alexandra Burke. Lucy, a year 5 student, remarked that Alexandra’s performance was her “favourite part” of the service, while she was also impressed by the “amazing speech” given by Anthony Joshua OBE, who delivered the principal reflection. Anthony, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the UK, spoke of his identity as a ‘child of the Commonwealth’, encouraging young people to see good in multi-culturalism, to persevere in the face of adversity and to work collectively to bring communities together. Read Anthony's remarks in full.

We had so much fun! I wish we could go again: the tour was great and interesting.              Robert, Fergus and Jack, Age 9.


Faith leaders representing the Greek Orthodox Church, the Muslim Community, the Buddhist  Community and Liberal Judaism, led the Prayers during the Service. The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, UK Prime Minister, gave the Bible Reading and Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, The Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland QC, led the congregation in the Act of Affirmation to the Commonwealth.

Attendees also experienced performances from three-time Ivor-Novello Winner, Craig David, who sang his song, ‘Unbelievable’ and the Melodians Steel Orchestra who played ‘Commonwealth Melody’. In their 33 year history, the Melodians have performed in as many countries and have focused on providing opportunities for young people from diverse social and racial backgrounds to develop musical skills.

A reflection was also given by Suli Breaks, a London-based performance poet whose work focuses on encouraging aspiration among young people despite personal circumstance. Suli delivered his message directly to the young congregation from the Nave Pulpit. Read Suli’s remarks in full.

The young people who attended the Service had a wonderful day and truly enjoyed this once in a lifetime experience. The Society is grateful to all the teachers, leaders and parents who accompanied them on the day. 

To register for tickets to next year's Service, schools and youth groups are encouraged to keep an eye on our website and social media channels. Registration for schools and youth groups will open in December.  

    Resources

    1. Read or download The Queen's Commonwealth Day Message 2020.

    2. Watch the Commonwealth Service.

    3. Find out more about the Commonwealth Theme: Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming.

    4. View the topics for The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition 2020, 'Climate Action and the Commonwealth'.