London, May 8 (PTI) The long celebratory Coronation weekend in the UK concluded on Monday with a nationwide volunteering initiative entitled the "Big Help Out", made up of around eight million opportunities for charities and local communities to participate in volunteering initiatives.
Conceived by Buckingham Palace as a tribute to newly crowned King Charles III’s focus on public service, the "Big Help Out" encouraged people from all walks of life to try volunteering for themselves and join the work being undertaken to support their local areas.
While British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty joined the initiative at a lunch club in southern England, Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer answered calls for the National Health Service (NHS) volunteer responders programme.
“This is part of the Big Help Out, tens of thousands of events taking place across the country just like this, respecting and reflecting His Majesty’s long tradition of service,” Sunak told reporters as he chopped vegetables for food being prepared at the MacMillan Lunch Club in Hertfordshire.
“It is community spirit like this that binds our country together. It’s fantastic to be a part of it,” he said.
The King and Queen finally got a day of rest after the hectic activities of the weekend, with other royals deputed to support various volunteering initiatives.
William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and their children Prince George, 9, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5, joined volunteers in renovating the Upton Scout Hut in Slough, Berkshire, with works including resetting a path, digging a new soakaway, sanding and revarnishing the front door, adding planters to the front of the building and adding a mural to create a "Big Help Out" legacy.
“The 3rd Upton Scouts Hut was built in 1982 and is used by a variety of community groups in the area, including the local mosque, a senior citizens contact group for members of the South Asian community and the Scout group themselves,” the palace said.
“The building is also used by ‘Slough All Nations’, a group with a heritage spanning across St Kitts and Nevis, and which provides recreation and leisure activities to improve health and wellbeing and promote community cohesion. The Princess of Wales has been Joint President of the Scouts since 2020,” it said.
According to Buckingham Palace, the aim of the final day of the long Coronation weekend was to use volunteering to bring communities together and create a lasting volunteering legacy of the historic event held after a gap of 70 years.
"Pa, we are all so proud of you," said Prince William in a very personal address to his father at the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday night.
“As my grandmother [Queen Elizabeth II] said when she was crowned, Coronations are a declaration of our hopes for the future. And I know she’s up there, fondly keeping an eye on us. She would be a proud mother,” he said.
The heir to the British throne also made his own pledge to “serve King, country and Commonwealth” and concluded with the refrain of “God Save the King”.
The concert, a grand musical spectacle, was made up of a glittering lineup of international stars including singers Lionel Ritchie and Katy Perry and concluded with a performance by the pop group Take That.
“Namaste, our Commonwealth is a union. Together we are one-third of the world's people, one-third of the world's ocean, one-quarter of the world's land,” said Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor as she introduced the Virtual Commonwealth Choir at the concert.
“Each of our countries is unique, and each of our people is special, but we choose to stand as one, learning from our history. Blessed by our diversity, driven by our values, and determined to build a more peaceful, sustainable, and prosperous future for everyone, where every voice is heard,” she said.
Besides the dignitaries and charity workers invited to the concert, the crowd of around 20,000 people got their tickets in a public ballot to watch a gala light and sound show against the backdrop of Windsor Castle, the King’s formal residence. It was also broadcast worldwide across 100 countries and aired live on the BBC.