Press & Communications

14 Mar 2011

An Observance for Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey on 14 March 2011 was attended by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar MP, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Chairperson-in-office of the Commonwealth, also attended and read Luke 1: 26-46a.

In his Bidding the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall said: ‘Our celebration this year of women as agents of change has a particular resonance for those of us who honour Mary, by God’s grace the Mother of Jesus. We honour too Queen Elizabeth I and many other women of our island story, buried or memorialised here in the Abbey, who have been agents of change for the better.’

In The Queen’s Commonwealth Day message, Her Majesty said: ‘In the Commonwealth, every year, 26 million girls are born; and this equates to one new baby girl arriving almost every second of every day. In the time it takes to hold the Commonwealth Observance Service at Westminster Abbey, nearly four thousand girls will have been born in Commonwealth lands. And every one of these births marks the start of a new life, a journey which begins with the hopes of parents, families, and communities, and which is continued through the aspirations of those girls themselves.

‘This year, the Commonwealth celebrates the important role that women already play in every walk of life and in every Commonwealth country - from the richest to the poorest areas, across continents and oceans, from villages to places of international debate, in every culture and faith - recognising that women are 'agents of change' in so many ways: as mothers and sisters, teachers and doctors, artists and craftspeople, smallholders and entrepreneurs, and as leaders of our societies, unleashing the potential of those around them.’

The Address was given by Annie Lennox OBE.

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy CBE, read her poem A Commonwealth Blessing for Girls.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, HE Kamalash Sharma, read the Act of Affirmation to the Commonwealth. Personal reflections were given by Dr Dambisa Moyo, Marie Staunton and Dr Martina Roth

There were performances by Denyse Plummer, Dance Ihayami, the Maria Fidelis Convent School Gospel Choir and Bear Love

The Choir of Westminster Abbey was directed by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of Choristers and the organ was played by Robert Quinney, Sub Organist.

The flags of 53 Commonwealth countries were paraded through the Abbey at the start of the service.

See also:

The Order of Service (PDF 2.8 MB)

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