Around 2,200 Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award holders were guests of honour in Buckingham Palace Garden this morning for the first of four very special events to mark their achievements – and The Duke of Edinburgh’s first Award celebrations as the charity’s Patron.
The celebrations, taking place today and on Friday 19 May, will recognise around 9,000 young people who have shown extraordinary perseverance, creativity and resilience to complete their Gold DofE in schools, community organisations, youth groups and workplaces, all over the UK.
The Buckingham Palace Garden has been transformed into a festival-style celebration for young people and their loved ones, with giant deckchairs, bunting, and garden games and activities. Attendees have the chance to hear from famous DofE Award holders, sporting legends and international adventurers, and pick up career advice from actors, presenters, authors and entrepreneurs, at stages throughout the Garden.
This morning’s celebration saw The Duke of Edinburgh – who received his own Gold Award from his father Prince Philip at nearby St James’s Palace in 1986 – congratulate attendees in a speech from the Palace’s West Terrace. The Duke also met Award holders, hearing about the positive impact their DofE has had on them.
Television presenter, former professional footballer and Silver DofE Award holder Jermaine Jenas delivered an inspiring speech, alongside 19-year-old Ffion Davies – receiving her own Gold Award today – who told attendees how doing her DofE had given her the confidence to follow her dream of become a firefighter.
Reflecting on his own move from football to TV presenting, Jermaine Jenas said: “The grit and commitment that allowed me to trade stadium lights for studio lights also lives in each one of you.
“It’s what kept you going when all your friends were doing other things. When you didn’t feel like showing up to your Volunteering shift. When you were trudging through the rain on your Expedition. You could have given up, but you didn’t, and out there – outside your comfort zone – is where a Gold DofE Award is truly earned.
“You are an unstoppable force of changemakers and should accept no limits on what you can achieve. And with all the uncertainty the world is facing right now, we need the help of every one of you to dream up the kind of future we need.”
Ffion Davies, 19, from Tredegar in Wales, said: “Nine-year-old me, who could hardly read or write due to my dyslexia, would never have believed I’d be standing here today, doing this speech. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you never know how experiences like the DofE will alter your way of thinking and develop you as a person.
“I am grateful for the lessons I have learnt while completing my Gold DofE. It has not only made me more confident as a person, it has enabled me to trust my capabilities.”
Ruth Marvel, CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, said: “A Gold DofE Award is a remarkable achievement. Many young people attending today have overcome their own challenges to make it here – all of them have shown huge perseverance and self-belief, and gained skills and memories to last a lifetime. They should all be incredibly proud.
“We’re grateful to The Duke of Edinburgh for hosting young people this week, in his first celebrations since becoming the DofE’s Patron. Like his father Prince Philip, The Duke passionately believes that all young people have the potential to achieve incredible things given the right support and opportunities. Under HRH’s patronage, we’ll keep working to give as many young people as possible the chance to do their DofE and, hopefully, find themselves celebrating this amazing achievement in years to come.”
Actor and comedian Jon Culshaw, television presenter Rav Wilding, explorers the Turner Twins, athlete and presenter Ade Adepitan, property expert Kirstie Allsopp and journalist Alice Beer were also on hand with inspirational talks on careers and life skills.
Speakers at other celebrations this week include England Lioness Jill Scott, explorer and Gold DofE Award holder Levison Wood, broadcaster and Gold DofE Award holder Charlotte Hawkins, DJ Vick Hope, actress Katherine Kelly, presenter Ore Oduba and Strictly professionals Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award charity recently announced record-breaking participation numbers, with 537,759 young people actively taking part in 2022/23, 323,676 starting their DofE – and participants contributing an astonishing 3.5 million hours of volunteering, equivalent to £17 million in paid working hours.
As young people navigate the after-effects of the pandemic, along with a mental health and cost-of-living crisis, access to opportunities for personal development beyond the classroom, like the DofE, are vital to help them discover new talents and passions, build their resilience and self-belief and give them skills employers value – like teamwork, problem-solving and leadership.
The DofE charity is working to make sure all young people have the chance to take part – particularly those who might face barriers, like young people living in poverty or who have additional needs.
A Gold DofE programme is a non-competitive personal challenge, open to all young people, which takes a minimum of 12 months to complete. Young people build their own programmes with activities in five sections – Physical, Skills, Volunteering, a five-day Residential and a four-day Expedition.