Commonwealth Day 2018 was celebrated in style by the 53 member countries with an array of special services, parties, food, dancing and music.
From a special church service at Wellington Cathedral of St Paul in New Zealand, to the British Council in Accra, Ghana, where award-winning singer and philanthropist Becca wowed dignitaries with a performance of Ghana’s national anthem, there was much noise, colour and, above all else, unity on show!
Queen Elizabeth’s annual Commonwealth Day message pledged to grow the Commonwealth in ‘scope and stature’. Her Majesty highlighted the important role the Commonwealth plays in bringing people together to create a future that is ‘fairer, more secure, more prosperous, and sustainable’.
She added: “There is a very special value in the insights we gain through the Commonwealth connection, shared inheritances help us overcome difference so that diversity is a cause for celebration rather than division.”
One of the first Commonwealth Big Lunches took place in Bolton, UK, featuring samples of food from across the Commonwealth. Schools in many member countries marked the date with assemblies, flag raising ceremonies, parties, debates and all sorts of other fun activities.
At Westminster Abbey, former One Direction member Liam Payne performed his version of Waiting on the World to Change. The Commonwealth Service also featured the London Maori Choir, the Portsmouth Gospel Choir and the Choir of Westminster Abby. Jaspreet Kaur, the poet and teacher, and Andrew Bastawrous, founder of Peek Vision, gave reflections.
As always, many members of the Royal Family were in attendance, including the Head of the Commonwealth - Queen Elizabeth, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry and his fiancée, Meghan Markle.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland used her statement to highlight the importance of working together. She said: “With our fellow citizens, we live, learn, work and play in countries set in every continent and ocean – all 2.4 billion of us, representing a glorious spectrum of diversity and talent. It is by living and working for the good of one another, towards a common future, that we build our Commonwealth.”
In Fiji, President Jioji Konrote referenced the perils of climate change in his Commonwealth Day address. He said: “There are 11 Commonwealth member states in the Pacific and all of us are grappling with the extreme weather events, rising seas and changes to agriculture associated with climate change.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of shared values, saying: “Today, on Commonwealth Day, we join the citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations to celebrate our shared values and the strong bonds of cooperation and friendship that unite us. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I invite all Canadians to take time today to learn more about the Commonwealth and its history.”
Away from the speech-making, the day is for children of the Commonwealth to learn more about the values, tradition and beliefs that unite us. In The Gambia, the Commonwealth’s newest member, school children have spent many days making flags of Commonwealth countries, which were then paraded with much enthusiasm around towns and villages.
That enthusiasm so apparent on Commonwealth Day 2018 is set to be repeated as it’s an exciting few months ahead, with CHOGM and the Gold Coast Games only a few weeks away.