Commonwealth Day 2018

On Monday 12 March, students from Archbishop Holgate’s School in York travelled to London to join 700 children and young people from across the UK in celebration of Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey as part of a congregation of 3,000 people.

The event is the largest annual multi-faith Service in the UK and was attended by Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, senior members of the Royal Family, The Prime Minister, Commonwealth Heads of State and specially invited guests.

Before the service, the group had a private tour of Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey was unlike anything I had ever seen before. From its astonishing architecture and fine masonry to its fascinating history and contents, the whole place was magical.

Student Oliver Pugh

Richard Nihill, the school's chaplain said, "The students and I were very excited about being given this wonderful opportunity. We had an amazing day in London, meeting people from across the Commonwealth and seeing members of the Royal Family at this unique event. It surpassed all our expectations and was unforgettable.

The Service, broadcast live on the BBC, celebrates the unity and diversity of the modern Commonwealth and aims to foster a greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s role and achievements. This year’s theme of ‘Towards a Common Future’ explores how the Commonwealth can address global challenges and work to create a better future for all citizens.

Attendees at the service were treated to performances from Ghanaian drum collective One-Drum, Ngati Ranana London Māori Club, Portsmouth Gospel Choir and musician Liam Payne. Readings and reflections were given by awarded-winning spoken word artist Jaspreet Kaur and Dr Andrew Basrawrous, Co-Founder and CEO of Peek Vision.

Archbishop Holgate’s Head Boy James Cain said: “The service was a wonderful mix of cultures and performances. My personal favourite was the London Māori Club, whose vocal rendition of ‘The Call for Welcome’ was very impressive.”

Going to Westminster Abbey to witness the Commonwealth Service and then meeting members of the Royal family was an immense privilege, and truly magical. The whole thing was enough to make you speechless, it was so overwhelming.”

Archbishop Holgate’s Head Girl Ellie Townson

Students from the school were among a small group invited to meet members of the Royal Family after the Service. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spent time meeting and talking to the groups of schoolchildren.

Student Olivia Stevens said: “The highlight of my day was shaking hands with Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. It was amazing being able to speak to them in person.”

Commonwealth Day is marked annually on the second Monday in March. It is a celebration of the Commonwealth’s rich diversity and an opportunity to promote understanding on global issues, international cooperation and the work of Commonwealth civil society organisations.