Young islanders from Lewis and Orkney travelled to London for a coronation event with the Prime Minister.
This past weekend, the Young Islanders Network sent young representatives Maimie and Kaydence to London to take part in the national consortium at UK Youth and attend a special coronation lunch outside number 10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister, Dr. Jill Biden (First Lady of the United States) and other leaders from across the country.
The young islanders’ journey began Saturday morning, when along with worker Naomi they made their way by ferry, car, plane and train into the heart of a festive and festival-ready London. When they arrived, the group strolled past the London Eye and delighted in the incredible light displays projected on Westminster and Big Ben, and a symphony of lights across the Embankment on the Shard.
As they walked through Whitehall, they passed some protestors and the young islanders were excited to see people campaigning for change. They closed their first night in the city with a dinner in Trafalgar Square and a discussion of the statues and the symbolism around them. On the walk to their hotel, they enjoyed the rare sight of an eerily quiet London, with streets already blocked off by the traffic restrictions for the next day.
On Sunday, the trio took the tube to Oxford Circus, walking along Oxford Street and admiring impressive shops full of celebratory displays. Maimie in particular marvelled at the iconic red double-decker buses and the street names all familiar from Monopoly.
They then made their way over to Downing Street for the Big Lunch. After a security check, they passed through to the party area which was decked out in red, white and blue bunting and had two long tables adorned with Emma Bridgewater crockery designed in honour of the coronation.
Maimie, Kaydence and Naomi had the chance to mingle with some of the other guests, who included a mixture of national Star Pride Award winners, local champions and youth organisations. They met a number of inspirational people who had overcome great adversity to found charities and campaigns with the hope of improving the lives of future generations. At the young islanders’ table was a youth services group from Yorkshire who spoke passionately about the value and impact of youth work on their lives. One young person had been involved with youth work for over 8 years and said it was a safe place and a family for him, and that it helped keep him out of trouble. As he reflected, he said he would like to become a young leader for his group—a goal that was met with echoes of support from his peers around the table.
It was not long before the Prime Minister and his family came out of the door to No. 10. While the Prime Minister spent a moment warmly welcoming everyone, stopping to chat and take pictures, the family’s dog Nova was also making friendly rounds and was very happy to see so many people!
The Prime Minister, his daughters and his wife, Akshata Murty, sat down at one of the long tables beside guests Dr. Jill Biden and her granddaughter Finnegan. Soon after, a continuous flow of delicious food came rolling out. The party enjoyed coronation quiche, sponge cakes, Yorkshire puddings, sausage rolls, sandwiches, coronation chicken, oodles of tea and more!
While the crowd feasted, the Prime Minister made his way down the tables, stopping to talk to everyone. One guest joked that the Prime Minister had made a wonderful job of the cakes, to which he responded that this was not his strength in the kitchen but he does make a chicken pie which is in the coronation recipe book. He then personally cut and served the large sponge cakes along the table.
When the food was finished, Maimie, Kaydence and Naomi had the opportunity to take a photo with the Prime Minister in front of the iconic door of No. 10 Downing Street. He asked the group where they were from and was very animated, expressing how pleased he was they were able to make the trip all the way down. He asked how the journey had been, remarking on the current situation with the ferries, and the trio reported that thankfully their travel was lovely and calm.
The young islanders had to rush off to catch their flight home and sadly missed some of the larger group photos. Before they left, though, they were able to spend the event’s closing moments with their UK Youth peers and had a chance to reflect on what an exciting opportunity this was to represent young people and to champion the importance of youth voices.
To read more about how Young Islanders Network is working to create opportunities for youth involvement at the highest levels of government, check out the article on the recent breakfast with former Deputy First Minister John Swinney in Stornoway.