Today has been a hugely exciting day for everyone at St Luke’s, which started a month ago when one of our partners, the Eden Project, rang to say they wanted us to join with them in hosting a Commonwealth Lunch on March 22nd. We weren’t sure what was involved but having hosted a number of Big Lunches in the past, we felt that our service users and local residents would enjoy it to the full.

We were then told that we could expect a VIP to join us on the day. We felt this was great as we have welcomed a number of VIPs to St Luke’s over the years and we really like showing them the Community Centre and the wonderful work that everyone is involved in.

However, we didn’t realise that our VIP would turn out to be two VIPs and that they were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. When this news emerged, everyone was very excited. We worried about protocol, about how to curtesy and what to wear! We wondered about how to address our guests and where we wanted to show them. We asked questions about security and media interest and who would do what.

It was reassuring when the Eden project staff and Royal household staff got back to us with a very simple message, “Be yourselves, enjoy the visit and don’t worry about the do’s and don’ts of the day”.  

And so, today, we welcomed our guests to the Centre and everyone was fantastically excited.   They arrived at 11.45 to the singing of the ‘Key Changes’ choir and to a welcome from the children at King’s Square Nursery. Our service users, volunteers, staff and trustees gathered to welcome the young royal couple.   There was an atmosphere of excitement and expectation and, they didn’t fail to deliver!

It is very hard to put into words the feeling of meeting the Duke and Duchess. They were so relaxed and so interested in what we do here at St Luke’s. They spoke to our service users, they listened to how the Centre supports them, they met our staff and they laughed and interacted in a simple way. One of our service users said that when the Duke spoke to her, “I felt like the only person in the world. He was so interested in what I told him”.

The Duke and Duchess donned aprons and both helped to put the finishing touches to the meal after almost an hour at the Centre. They signed our Visitors’ book which had been taken from the safe! This Visitors’ book was bought in 1982 and had only one signature in it – the signature of the Queen when she opened the Centre that year.   Now, it has three with the signatures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

We are so delighted with the visit today. They have left the Centre now but the memory of their visit and how they touched the lives of so many of us, will remain with us for a long time to come.