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The Royal Commonwealth Society launches The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2022

By Francesca Makey

The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition, established in 1883, is the world's oldest international writing competition for schools. The competition is held annually, and is open to all youth up to the age of 18. There are two categories: Senior 14-18 years, and Junior, under 14 years of age, each with a word limit of 1,500 and 750 words respectively.

Each year, young people are asked to write on a theme that explores the Commonwealth’s values and principles, fostering an empathetic and open-minded world view in the next generation of Commonwealth leaders. Themes tend to focus on current affairs, particularly those which affect today’s youth, with some of the most recent themes being; the environment, inclusion, the role of youth leadership, and gender equality. This is a great chance for local youth to have their voices heard and acknowledged, and to express their views on pressing issues which they may feel passionate about.

This year, on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee year, Her Majesty The Queen will celebrate 70 years as the Head of the Commonwealth. The Queen’s seven decades of service are an inspiring example of the unwavering commitment and important contribution we can all make to our societies. The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2022 will therefore ask entrants to explore the positive impact that can be achieved through dedication and selfless commitment to our Commonwealth communities. This year’s theme is ‘Our Commonwealth’.

Within the final theme will be eight different topics: four for the Senior Category and four for the Junior Category, and entrants are to choose one topic to write about. This allows entrants to have some element of guidance when it comes to planning their entry.

Proposed topics for the Senior Category:
1. Imagine you are a Head of Government delivering a speech to your counterparts at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda. Write a speech that highlights what you believe should be a priority for collective action within the Commonwealth.
2. Committed to the Commonwealth.
3. Her Majesty The Queen was born in the twentieth century, a period that saw enormous social change driven by visionary and committed leaders. Reflect on an inspirational leader from this period.
4. “Whilst experiences of the last year have been different across the Commonwealth, stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication to duty have been demonstrated in every Commonwealth nation and territory, notably by those working on the frontline who have been delivering healthcare and other public services in their communities.” – Her Majesty The Queen, Commonwealth Day Message 2021.
Imagine you are working on the frontline. Write about your experience, explaining why you serve your community and why your service matters.

Proposed topics for the Junior Category
1. Imagine you are a grandparent in 2022. Tell your grandchildren a bedtime story about an inspirational person.
2. What are the best ways for young people to serve the Commonwealth in your view?
3. Our Commonwealth community.
4. Write a job description for a superhero needed to solve a problem in your country.

Although the competition is coined an ‘essay’ competition, the medium in which entrants’ work is presented is in fact open; past winners have included letters, poems and scripts. Personally, this is one of the things that draws me to this competition. Its diversity really does encourage young people to use their imaginations and allows free creative expression without restraints, bar the word count which does need to be adhered to!

There are numerous prizes in each category and, annually, winners are invited to travel to the United Kingdom for a week of educational and cultural activities, which culminates in a special Awards Ceremony, usually held at Buckingham Palace, that is hosted by the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Vice-Patron, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition has seen many of its past winners go on to become prominent leaders themselves, including the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mei Fong, and the renowned author, Elspeth Huxley.

Whilst the competition receives thousands of entries per year, we have not seen many submissions from Gibraltarian entrants in the past. However, we are hoping that this year will be different.

This competition is a great way to get our local youth thinking about some of the bigger themes and issues which connect them to others in the Commonwealth. Indeed, competitions like these allow the opportunity to explore our evolving identity and relationship with the Commonwealth as well as project their presence on an international stage.

This year’s topics all share a common theme: that of commitment and selflessness, and the titles provided are likely to resonate with many of our youth who may feel particularly strongly about some of the proposed topics, especially in the light of these tough times that we are currently facing. The need to seek inspiration or connection, and the willingness to display selflessness and commitment at a time when we are being challenged to rethink our international relationships with other countries are great motives to encourage Gibraltar’s young people to voice their thoughts and opinions through this competition, all whilst getting creative at the same time!

Representing the Royal Commonwealth Society Gibraltar Branch as their literary lead, I am extremely excited to see the launch of this year’s competition, and I’m hoping to see many of Gibraltar’s youth getting involved.
Any questions can be directed to: frankymakey@hotmail.com, and you can find out more about the essay competition by visiting: https://www.royalcwsociety.org/the-qcec.

Are you thinking of entering the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition? Here are some of my Top Tips:

1. Familiarise yourself with the competition by heading to the RCS website, reading the Terms & Conditions and FAQs, and browsing through past winners’ entries.
2. Choose to answer just one of the four topics in your category.
3. Think carefully about the form of writing you wish to use to answer the topic. Will you write a speech, a letter, or maybe a poem?
4. Make sure to use your own voice and your own words; plajurised entries will be disqualified.
5. Ensure you take into account spelling, grammar and punctuation whilst writing your piece.
6. Make sure to proof-read your work to avoid any errors. Perhaps read it aloud, or have someone check over it for you to spot any mistakes.
7. Ensure you have word processed your entry and formatted it accordingly.
8. Presentation is important: think about the visual appearance of your entry.
9. Give yourself enough time before the closing date to work on your piece.

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