Day Three of #CWEssayComp Winners’ Week
On Wednesday, after two days taking part in very London-centred activities, it was a refreshing change for the Winners, Runners-Up and their families to visit the city of Cambridge. Here, they spent the day with Cambridge University Press, sponsor of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2015.
They visited Fitzwilliam College and were greeted there by Dr Hero Chalmers, a lecturer in English Literature, before they were introduced to the Master of the College, Nicola Padfield, who outlined the history of women’s education in Cambridge and the similar legal systems between Commonwealth countries.
Following the talk, the group were keen to learn more about Cambridge and walked down to the River Cam for a session of punting, a typical Cambridge activity.
The final stop was a visit to the University of Cambridge library where the archives of the Royal Commonwealth Society, dating back to 1862, have been stored since 1992. Visiting the underground storage facilities, the Commonwealth archivists explained that the Winners’ and Runner-Ups’ essays would also be stored there. They then presented old photos and postcards that would be of interest to the families. In particular, the group were all amazed to have Nathan’s grandfather, his great-grandfather and great-grandmother pointed out in the collection!
Though a long day, the trip had proved both interesting and surprising; the group were impatient for the Buckingham Palace Award Ceremony, which was to take place the next day.
Day Four of #CWEssayComp Winners’ Week
At 9.30am, the Winners and Runners-Up were early to arrive outside Buckingham Palace for the Award Ceremony. The Royal Commonwealth Society Director, Michael Lake, began the ceremony by welcoming guests, officially announcing the theme of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2016 – ‘An Inclusive Commonwealth’, and then inviting Her Royal Highness to make the presentations to the young winners, who were all awarded a certificate and a commemorative pen.
The guests at the ceremony included foreign dignitaries, journalists, authors and members of the Junior and Senior judging panels. The UK Representative of the Government of Tristan da Cunha; the Minister Counsellor for the High Commission for Botswana to the United Kingdom; the Political Counsellor of the High Commission for Cyprus and the Chief Executive of Friends of the British Overseas Territories were just some of the guests ready to meet and congratulate the young writers.
Upon leaving Buckingham Palace, Helen Jones, Director of Youth Affairs and Education Programmes at the RCS, joined the group for lunch and was keen to discuss the morning’s events and catch up on their week. This allowed the families to reflect on their time in London and to re-energise after the excitement of the ceremony.
Finally, the group were taken to the BBC’s Broadcasting House near Oxford Circus. They met with Christine Noakes who had organised an interesting and interactive tour of the BBC. Though the group left the studios disheartened to part ways, all agreed that their week of educational and cultural activities had been a great learning experience and one which they would remember for a long time to come.
For 132 years, the essay competition has provided a platform for young writers, like Paraschos, Tawanda, Nathan and Martina, across the Commonwealth, to share their views on the issues that matter to them. As the group leave London tomorrow, we hope that the strength of the written word, the importance of cross-cultural dialogue and the importance of the modern Commonwealth are messages that will stay with them.