Leah Annia Plante Wiener

On the 1st of May 2015, The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition will close for entry. Commonwealth young people enter each year in the hope to being one of the overall winners and experience winners’ week in London as Leah Annia did last November. She tells us more about it:


Where do I begin to explain my week in London with the Royal Commonwealth Society? I could start by saying that it was terribly cold and damp in London. I could also say that jetlag is really not a fun thing to experience. I could even talk about how travelling by tube during rush hour can be somewhat terrifying. These would be irrelevant things to talk about, though, since they did nothing to dampen my excitement.


Winners’ week started off bright and early on Monday, November 17th with a ride on the tube, which was absolutely packed with people, to the RCS office. We had a writing workshop with Alison Milford, a children’s author. I learned quite a bit about the other winners, Max, Raniya, and Selina, and we had a lot of fun writing stories and sharing them. We came up with the oddest ideas for stories which made us all laugh a lot.


After that, we recorded our essays at ABC studios. I especially liked the little interview that I had with the journalist after the recording. We then took the tube to Oaklands School in the East of London. Two students gave us a tour of their school, which is three times the size of my school! At the end of the day, I had fish and chips with mashed peas, which made me seem like such a tourist.


On Tuesday, November 18th, we visited Parliament. We went into the House of Commons, and it was difficult to believe that I was standing in the same place as Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher once stood. Parliament was very grand, and the architecture was breathtaking. We saw the river Thames, and even heard Big Ben solemnly ring at one o’clock. After, we visited the offices of the London newspaper, The Evening Standard, and we learned all about the highs and lows of selling a newspaper. In the evening, my parents and I went to see The Phantom of the Opera, which I had been waiting to see for years.


And then November 19th, Wednesday, came. Glorious Wednesday, the day where we would go to Buckingham Palace. As we arrived, the changing of the guard was taking place, and we had a glimpse of the majestic horsemen with their capes and tall feathered helmets. We walked to the throne room and had a basic run-through of the ceremony. We then had a quick tour of a bit of Buckingham Palace. We got to see the art collection, some artefacts, and learn interesting tidbits about the history of the royal family.


Walking through the rooms, we heard various clocks chime with the most delightful and crystalline sound. Everything in the palace was beautiful, elegant, and well designed. As we walked around the palace, I still couldn’t believe that I was inside Buckingham Palace. It was a bit overwhelming!


The ceremony began, and the Duchess of Cornwall shook all of our hands and gave us our certificates. Her Royal Highness congratulated all of us and encouraged us to keep on writing.


After the reception, we were on our way to the BBC where we had a very interesting tour. Selina and I pretended to be news reporters in a fun activity, and I even participated in a fake radio-drama with my dad playing an evil butler. I am still trying to convince him that he’d have a promising career in voice acting.


Thursday was the group’s last day together. We started off the day by taking the train to Cambridge, which was even colder than London! We first went to Fitzwilliam College, one of the colleges on Cambridge University’s campus. We met the head of Fitzwilliam and she told us all about the history of the college. After that, the clouds disappeared and the weather cleared up just in time for us to go punting. We sat in gondola-like boats and went down the river Cam as we were told the history of Cambridge. Some curious ducks tried to catch up to our boats, which was very funny to watch.


After, we went to the University Library. At first, we were taken to the top floors to look at a collection of very old novels, some from as early as the mid-1800s. We then proceeded to the international archives. I saw a picture from my local park, Westmount Park, near Montreal, that dated from 1908. I found it quite fascinating that a picture from my neighbourhood would find itself in the basement of a giant library in England.


We then took the train back to London and said our final goodbyes. I was sad to see the other winners go and reluctant to go back home, but this week was an unforgettable one.


To find out more about the essay competition click here


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Royal Commonwealth Society.