The 2017 Commonwealth Service took place in Westminster Abbey on 13 March in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth. Her Majesty was accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, The Duke of York and The Earl of Wessex. The focus was the theme ‘A Peace-building Commonwealth’.
The Service was broadcast live on BBC One.
Speakers, in order of appearance
Achaleke Christian Leke
Achaleke is a leading Peace Advocate and CVE activist from Cameroon who was a victim of violence and radicalisation. Over nine years Achaleke has worked with young people in over 100 youth empowerment and peace-building projects. Currently a Chevening Scholar, pursuing studies in International Development (Conflict, Security and Development), Achaleke is the Co-ordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network. In 2016, he was named the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, and the Most Influential Young Cameroonian because of his outstanding work in the fight against violent extremism.
Kurt Fearnley OAM
Raised in the small country town of Carcoar, New South Wales, Kurt has always been determined. Being born without the lower portion of his spine has never held him back. Kurt is a three-time Paralympic Gold Medallist and three-time Commonwealth Games Medallist who has won numerous marathons across the world. His exploits are not confined to wheelchair racing having crawled the Kokoda track, Great Wall of China and sailed on a winning Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race crew. Kurt is a passionate disability advocate and devotes himself to a small number of charities.
The Honourable Dr Joseph Muscat KUOM
Dr Joseph Muscat graduated with Honours from the University of Malta in Public Policy and later as Master of European Studies. In 2004 he successfully contested the first European Parliamentary elections in Malta, and in 2006 he was the recipient of the Outstanding Young Person of the Year. Dr Muscat took office as Prime Minister of Malta on the 11th March 2013. Prime Minister Muscat is currently the Commonwealth Chair-in-Office and is leading Malta’s Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2017.
The Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC
The Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC took office as the first, female Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations on 1st April 2016. As Secretary-General she is privileged to serve the 52 governments and 2.4 billion people of the Commonwealth. The 2017 theme is ‘A Peace building Commonwealth’. For the Secretary-General, that means working with member states in concrete ways to advance the inspiring goals of the Commonwealth Charter which recognises that international peace and security, sustainable economic growth and development, and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all.
Performers, in order of appearance
As the largest centre for Indian arts and culture outside India, The Bhavan is committed to ensuring that the rich artistic and cultural heritage of India is alive and available to all. The Bhavan’s expert teachers are dedicated to sharing classical Indian arts and culture in an authentic way. The day’s performances feature Bharatanatyam dance and Indian classical music by students and teachers of The Bhavan.
The Commonwealth Resounds (TCR)
TCR was created for the 2005 CHOGM in Malta and has performed at every successive CHOGM. TCR supports musical initiatives in Commonwealth countries, including many cross-cultural activities, a choir and an orchestra. TCR’s Commonwealth Festival Choir and Orchestra will perform songs and instrumental music, mostly composed especially for the Pre-Service by pupils from 10 different schools and cultural backgrounds representing Jamaica, Malaysia, St Vincent, Malta, India, Uganda, Australia, Nigeria, the UK, and Sri Lanka.
Measha began her career committed to the art of the song recital. Her first recording for Deutsche Grammophon, Surprise, is one of the most highly regarded debut albums of recent years. Her subsequent disc, Night and Dreams, which features songs by Mozart, Brahms, Strauss, Schubert, Debussy, Duparc, and Fauré won several awards and her recording of the Wesendonck Lieder with Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra earned her a Grammy nomination. Measha also champions the education and involvement of new audiences and holds several honorary doctorates and ambassadorial titles with international charities.
Dr Immanuel Mifsud
Dr Mifsud is a poet and author; he has written two books for children. In 2002, 2013, and 2014 he won the National Book Award. He is also the first Maltese writer to win the European Union Prize for Literature (2011) with his book In the Name of the Father (and of the Son), which has since been translated and published in English, French and various other languages. In 2014 he was appointed Member of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Malta. Dr Mifsud lectures in literature and literary theory at the University of Malta.
Courtenay is an Australian violinist on a full tuition scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. She is a member of the Patronus Quartet and a core member of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. At the University of Queensland (2011) Courtenay was a finalist in the university’s Bach Prize and The Howard and Gladys Sleath Prize for Strings. She was also the recipient of the Sleath String Scholarship for outstanding students. In 2010 Courtenay was concertmaster of the Australian Youth Orchestra Young Symphonists Program.
George the Poet
George the Poet is a London-born spoken-word performer of Ugandan heritage. His innovative brand of musical poetry has won him critical acclaim both as a recording artist and a social commentator. The social commentary at the core of George’s work extends beyond his music. With the brand new Search Party App, George connects his listeners with organisations around the world tackling the issues addressed in his poetry.
The Choir of Westminster Abbey
The Abbey’s world-famous choir of boys and men plays a central role both in the daily choral services in the Abbey and in the many royal, state and national occasions which take place there. In addition, the choir’s schedule includes a wide range of high-profile recordings, broadcasts, concerts, and overseas tours. All the choristers are educated at the Abbey’s unique Choir School. Auditions take place throughout the year and enquiries are welcome at any time.
About the Commonwealth Service
The Commonwealth Service is the UK’s largest multi-faith celebration and takes place annually on the second Monday in March at Westminster Abbey. The one hour service features a mixture of testimonies, readings, and musical performances. Each year the Service is based around an annual Commonwealth Theme. For 2017, the theme is ‘A Peace-building Commonwealth'.
This unique event is traditionally attended by Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, High Commissioners, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and dignitaries from across the UK and from around the Commonwealth as well as senior politicians and 800 school children and young people.
The Royal Commonwealth Society organises the Service on behalf of a group of Commonwealth organisations, known as the Council of Commonwealth Societies (CCS).
Commonwealth Day has been celebrated across the Commonwealth, every year since the 1970s. In recent years, there has been a shift away from celebrating a single day towards celebrating Commonwealth Week, with Commonwealth Day at its centre. The aim is to celebrate the unity, diversity and links of the modern Commonwealth and to foster greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s achievements and role, particularly among young people.