Of the 2.4 billion citizens that make up the Commonwealth, over 60% of the Commonwealth are under the age of 30 – that’s more than a billion young people, contributing to change all across the world. In recognition of the significant impact that young Commonwealth citizens have, 700 UK school children and youth groups are invited to attend the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey each year, taking their place alongside representatives of Commonwealth nations, UK Government representatives and members of The Royal Family.
The Service is the perfect opportunity to recognise the role which young people occupy at the heart of the Commonwealth. The involvement of school children celebrates the unity, diversity and familial connections of the modern Commonwealth. Last year, a Supporter of The Royal Commonwealth Society accompanied one Liverpool school to the Service, a city that has been well represented at every event since 2012. Of the day, he said:
‘The special beacon of Commonwealth Day calls across all the ripples of society. At its most profound it is simply a chance to assemble as one, under one roof, through one history and before one future. That which is gained by sitting together at close quarters is as heartfelt and meaningful for a school from the inner city as it is for those we greet from another country entirely. In all cases, a bridge is made and some potential is sewn.’
In line with this unifying and forward-thinking outlook, the content of this year's Service will reflect the 2018 Commonwealth theme of ‘Towards a Common Future’. This theme – which will also form the basis of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April – focuses on building on the strengths of the Commonwealth to ensure that we are responsive to global challenges, and to deliver a fairer, more prosperous, secure, and sustainable future for all its citizens.
In working to achieve these goals, The Royal Commonwealth Society recognises the need for young people's voices to be at the centre of the process. To this end, we invite young people to attend the Service, an engaging and inspiring first interaction with the Commonwealth.
The Service features a vibrant mixture of testimonies, readings, and performances from talented musicians across the Commonwealth, highlighting the wealth of talent which the Commonwealth has to offer. This unique event allows school children to hear first-hand from world-renowned artists, activists and athletes and to be inspired by their lives and achievements. Previous contributors have included Ellie Goulding, Kofi Annan, Sir Richard Branson, and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi. Across the world, the Commonwealth provides invaluable opportunities to young people, from academic scholarships to seats at the table for high-level discussions. The Service is a celebration of this and a medium through which UK students and teachers can engage with the Commonwealth to access such opportunities.
But the Service is about more than just the lofty aims of the Commonwealth – the event itself is an exciting whirlwind day, full of culture and history and thoroughly enjoyed by all who attend. One school group wrote the following review:
‘We shuffled through the short queue into Westminster Abbey. By now every sentence was a history lesson and children were agog at the names of kings and queens. We stopped to pause when we caught sight of Annie Lennox on her way into the Abbey. We also saw Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill…Our Liverpool schools had perfect seats in the Nave, under the pulpit…
We saw John Major, Geri Halliwell and her daughter Bluebell, Prime Minister Theresa May and Floella Benjamin. We stood straight to see The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and the royal party step by. The Commonwealth Day service is always tightly choreographed. It never takes much time. This year was another great service…Afterwards, there was a walk across Westminster Bridge. We turned left to Jubilee Bridge then back to Euston from Embankment…
It was late, yes, but this was once in a lifetime.’
We encourage schools and youth groups from across the UK to apply for tickets to the 2018 Service. To register your interest in tickets, please complete this form before Friday 26th January or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Successful applicants will be informed by Monday 5th February.