Last week on Armistice Day, Peace Direct celebrated its tenth anniversary at a party for our long-term supporters hosted by the award-winning actor Mark Rylance.
The evening was held at St Ethelberga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, a beautiful medieval church in the City of London that was hit by an IRA bomb in 1993 and then recreated as a peace centre. Guests enjoyed music from a live Congolese band and a slideshow of our partner’s work in the past 10 years. Then Mark kicked off the speeches by telling us how much he admired their work. Next the distinguished BBC broadcaster and foreign correspondent Bridget Kendall spoke. She was one of the international panel of judges for our Tomorrow’s Peacebuilder competition this year, and she described how important the competition is as a way of finding and showcasing new grassroots peace organisations.
Then Bridget announced the four winners of this year’s competition, and presented an award to one of the winners who had flown to London for the event. Vahidin Omanovic runs the CIM organisation in post-war Bosnia, helping young people who have grown up in the aftermath of civil war to learn to accept each other’s communities. Bridget interviewed him onstage.
Guests were then invited to share their thoughts and memories of Peace Direct over the last decade. Our co-founder Scilla Elworthy spoke about how Peace Direct had been formed around a kitchen table, others spoke of the inspiring work of our partners and the impact it has. Our incoming CEO, Dylan Mathews, spoke about his six years on the Peace Direct’s board of trustees, and recalled having written the book that originally launched the Peace Direct idea: War prevention Works, a survey of 50 grassroots peacebuilders.
Many people also said how instrumental our outgoing CEO Carolyn Hayman had been in Peace Direct’s success and how much she would be missed. Mark Ryance said that she is one of the ten most inspirational people he had ever met.
Carolyn spoke about her experiences of working with Peace Direct’s partners and how inspiring their work has been. She said that Peace Direct and its partners are starting to gain larger grants and recognition from institutions such as the EU, and that it will be more important than ever to keep the partners at the centre of the work the we do. Carolyn also mentioned how thrilled she was that Dylan had been chosen to take over and that she could think of no one better.
The evening ended with dancing to the band and warm wishes from the extended Peace Direct family.