Rubbing noses with royalty in Westminster
Nine young School Reporters from London were given a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to join 1,000 pupils and some very Royal guests at Westminster Abbey on 12 March to celebrate Commonwealth Day through culture, music, poetry and prayers.
ABOUT THE STORY
- The Commonwealth was first set up in 1949 and by 2011 had 54 members covering a population of two billion
- Commonwealth theme in 2012 is 'Connecting Cultures' marking the Queen's Diamond Jubilee
- The 54 countries celebrate the links they share as members of "one diverse and dynamic global family"
- Royals present: Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Countess of Wessex
- Other VIPS: Canadian singer Rufus Wainwright, South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela and primatologist Jane Goodall
Our group strolled up to the West gate of the Abbey, admiring the brilliant buildings and monuments all around us. As we passed the cars of the important Commonwealth leaders, we all realised what an honour it was for normal school children from Ealing to attend this Royal event.
We showed our tickets and proceeded towards the busy entrance of the Abbey. Lined up on each side of the steps were the photographers and cameramen waiting for the Royal figures and we realised how huge and beautiful the Abbey was.
We made our way through the crowds of hopeful children waiting to see the Queen and other important people attending the ceremony.
Luckily, we managed to get some seats on the front row of our block so we were only a few feet away from the procession as it passed by. We were finally settled and ready for the celebration to begin.
The stained glass windows and detailed sculptures in the Abbey were breathtaking. The procession started and it was really special to see all the flags of the Commonwealth countries united in one line and some of the most inspirational people in the world's culture and monarchy following behind.
End Quote School Reporters Finn and Francis
We walked out feeling overjoyed as we had seen the Queen only a few feet away from us”
The service began with a short prayer followed by a video made by the Queen. As the theme of this year's Observance was 'Connecting Cultures', a special song was written by Robert Hartstone called 'Stronger as One'. This was performed fantastically by Laura Wright and the Reading Blue Coat School Choir.
One of the moments we had been most looking forward to then arrived.
As we sang our patriotic National Anthem, the Queen processed up the aisle in her bright pink coat and hat along with other Royal family members, religious leaders of the Commonwealth and the important people of Westminster Abbey.
It was a magical moment to be just a few feet away from the Queen of our country. The atmosphere in the Abbey was amazing. We sang a hymn and listened to the great speeches about the Commonwealth.
Another section of the Observance that was especially exciting was the number of performances and reflections that we were given.
A famous songwriter called Rufus Wainwright started the celebrity performances by singing Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'. This was a very moving performance.
A lady called Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave an inspirational and touching reflection on stereotypes and the fact that so many people in poverty work as hard as the rest of us.
The Descarga Dance Company gave an exciting contemporary and African dance, Andrew Forrest gave a powerful reflection on 'Connecting Cultures' and Dr Jane Goodhall gave a very intellectual speech on our connection with animals.
Our favourite performance was by a very famous South African musician called Hugh Masekela. He played an outstanding and exhilarating performance accompanied by the piano.
Hugh used his voice, cow bell and trumpet to play a special song that enlightened the crowd and made us tap our feet in time with the cow bell. It was great fun when Hugh even got us to sing along with him. His performance was full of energy and movement.
After the observance, the crowds inside and out were buzzing with excitement. We walked out feeling overjoyed as we had seen the Queen only a few feet away from us.
Matthew, 13, said: "Seeing the Queen was an amazing experience that I will never forget."
This reflected the mood of our group and every school child and teacher inside the Abbey on this special day. The overall experience was colourful, creative and charismatic. No person came out of the Abbey without a smile on their face.