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commonwealthFor the first time ever, local authorities and civic dignitaries, community groups and charities throughout the British Isles are taking part in local flag raising events and ceremonies of dedication to mark Commonwealth Day.

This new, unique initiative, which has caught the imagination of thousands of participants, enables people in their local communities to become involved and join with others nationwide in associating themselves with widespread public expression of commitment to the Commonwealth, appreciation of the values it stands for, and the opportunities offered to its citizens around the world.

A specially written Commonwealth Affirmation will be read out at each ceremony before the raising of the Commonwealth flag at 10am on Monday 10th March 2014, led by either the Lord Lieutenant, Member of Parliament, Lord Mayor, Lord Provost, Mayor, Leader, Chairman, or nominated representative of each participating local authority or administration.

Charity teams will mark the day by taking Commonwealth Flags to the top of the UK’s four highest National Peaks and use the occasion to raise funds for their worthy causes: Cancer Research UK – Scafell Pike, England; Help for Heroes – Ben Nevis, Scotland; Walking with the Wounded – Mount Snowdon, Wales; and Fields of Life – Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland.

Commonwealth Flags will also be flown at many locations of special significance including the four capital cities of the United Kingdom, Land’s End in Cornwall, the most westerly point in England; St. David’s in Pembrokeshire: the westernmost city in Wales; Carlisle in Cumbria: the northernmost city in England; Lowestoft in Suffolk: the easternmost town in England; and Unst in the Shetland Islands, the most northerly inhabited island in Scotland. Flags will also be raised at the Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula, and at the Halley VI Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, as well as King Edward Point and Bird Island in South Georgia.

“This will be the largest, single, raising of the Commonwealth Flag in the history of the Commonwealth”, said Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR, Pageantmaster and originator of Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth. “The success of this year’s event bodes well for 2015 and the future”, said Peek, “as we extend the invitation to participate and involve all 53 countries of the Commonwealth and UK overseas territories, to make this the largest-ever annual occasion involving local communities throughout the worldwide Commonwealth family”.

I am also delighted that the Virdee Foundation, a well respected, world-wide charitable Foundation has accepted my invitation to join this project for the lifetime of the event, especially as I have always been convinced that this annual occasion will grow in size and stature over the next few years, providing a unique fund-raising opportunity for Commonwealth causes such as those outlined within the Virdee Foundations Memorandum and Articles of Association – the protection of women and children from abuse and the relief of abused women and children, a worthy cause close to my heart too.”

“The Virdee Foundation is delighted to be a part of this initiative, working closely alongside Bruno, to enable us through the ‘good will’ of those taking part, to assist us in donating charitable funds raised by those taking part, to the important cause outlined above, said Peter Virdee, Chairman of the Virdee Foundation.”

His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth said: “Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth is a most imaginative way for people in local communities – wherever they live, learn or work – to join together with others throughout the Commonwealth in a spirit of respect and understanding to celebrate the variety and unmatched diversity of our global family. I welcome and commend it.” “All our citizens, particularly the young, can express appreciation for the Commonwealth and the values for which it stands as set out in the Commonwealth Charter, and the rich opportunities it offers for mutual support towards more inclusive social and more equitable economic progress.”

Esri UK Interactive Map: “We are exceptionally proud to support the ‘Fly a Flag’ for Commonwealth initiative and, to help raise awareness of the day, we have built an interactive map <a href="http://www.esriuk.com/flyaflagmap&quot;
target=”_blank”>www.esriuk.com/flyaflagmap that shows where the individual flag raising events are taking place, throughout the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man,” explained Dr Richard Waite, Managing Director of Esri UK. We strongly encourage all local authorities and others taking part to post the map on their website, so local citizens and the media can easily find details of their local event and become involved in what will be a most special day.”

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There will be a special flag-raising ceremony and service to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation on Sunday 2 June at 12.30pm on Gravesend’s Community Square.

The Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Derek Sales will lead the celebration and the service will be conducted by his chaplain Rev Canon Chris Stone, Rector of Gravesend. More

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All images © Simon Kelsey

All images © Simon Kelsey

A record number of visitors took advantage of the sunshine last weekend and flocked to The English Festival for a good old fashioned British day out.

The free event is held each year at Riverside Country Park, Gillingham on the closest Saturday to St George’s Day to celebrate all things quintessentially and quirkily English.

Many thousands of families enjoyed building sandcastles at a specially created seaside, taking part in a Mat Hatter’s Tea Party and meeting St George and his dragon. The park was divided into four themed zones, the Seaside, the Village Square, the English Countryside and Medieval Fun.

Activities included bee keeping, a falconry display, games, face painting and donkey rides. An assortment of colourful characters mingled with the crowds, including bird spotters, duelling lollipop ladies, and of course St George and his pet dragon.
Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Services Cllr Howard Doe said: “The festival was a great success. Saturday’s weather was the nicest of the year so far, and more than 14,000 people turned out for the free event. This festival really has captured people’s imaginations and has grown in popularity each year.

“Families were kept entertained by fair ground rides, donkey rides and duelling lollipop ladies, to name just a few, and enjoyed the mouthwatering food and drink on offer from the numerous stalls available on the day.

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DSC07604The monthly meeting of the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship (R&CDF) took place on Thursday the 21st of February staring at 7.30. The Charles Dickens 201st Birthday meeting was in the Pre-Show Room of The Britannia Theatre Dickens World in Chatham and included a performance of Dr Marigold by Gerald Dickens. For details of the R&CDF contact the Hon. Secretary Steve Martin on 01474 834164 – stevemartin54@hotmail.com or Chairman John Knott 01634 862688.

Gerald Dickens, the great great grandson of Charles Dickens, introduced his reading by telling the group some of the background to Dr Marigold and how much his great ancestor had liked performing it – particularly to American audiences. After the reading, Gerald answered questions from the audience and spent the next hour or so talking to members individually. In answer to one question, Gerald said that as far as he is aware, Dr Marigold is the only reading that Charles Dickens gave that did not come from one of his books. R&CDF are very lucky to have Gerald as our branch President.

Another highlight of the evening was a champagne toast to Charles Dickens birthday given by ex BBC News Reader and popular TV personality Jan Leeming. An excellent cake was baked and cut by Fellowship Committee Member Freda Mann. There was also a supply of champagne [ with orange juice for the nominated drivers amongst the group] provided by committee member David Hawes and the management of Dickens World in Chatham where the Fellowship hold their regular meetings. Many branch Members attended in Dickensian costume and the Chairman of the International Dickens Fellowship James Murray also attended and supported the celebrations.

Celebrations to mark the Chinese New Year will be held across two weekends, as Medway welcomes in the Year of the Snake.
There will be a preview event on Saturday, 9 February, with colourful entertainment in the High Street (near Argos) and the Pentagon Shopping Centre from 11.30am to 2.30pm, featuring The Lion Team from Foshan, The Dance Alley Dancers, The ShiKon Martial Arts Team, Cantonese Opera Performers from Hong Kong, a guest performer from China and The God of Fortune. There will also be a small street market, children’s ride and food stalls in the High Street area.
The celebrations continue on Sunday, 17 February with the Medway Chinese New Year Parade, one of the largest in the UK. More

It’s not long now until the nation will be hanging out the red, white and blue to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and children and families will be able to step back in time with some fifties themed celebrations. More

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