I just want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all this year’s students. They really have surpassed themselves in the quality and diversity of the work I have seen today. It know it’s invidious to single out any particular students from so strong a field. But I hope you will forgive me, Ladies and Gentlemen, for just mentioning Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh because marvellous drawings and paintings have won her an academic Distinction. Also Dana Awartani – who has achieved a Distinction for her studies in Islamic traditional and architectural arts which really do deserve the highest possible praise.

Ladies and Gentlemen I’m hugely grateful to David Green for his incredibly kind words. I just wanted to say that I so look forward to coming each year to this degree show and to have a chance to meet the incredibly dedicated students to see their work and to hear about their aspirations. The wonderful thing is to know that some of them want to go back and make sure all sorts of things happen in their countries of origin, to maintain the living traditions that have been passed down for thousands of years around the world but which tend to have become abandoned throughout the world now. So it seemed to me it was absolutely crucial to find a way of maintaining the “Golden Thread” as it were. You may be amused to hear that I’ve been Patron of something called the Rare Breed Survival Trust for the last thirty or so years. As far as I’m concerned you are part of the Rare Breeds - and so am I!

The School has had another year of exceptional success. Its work here in the United Kingdom goes from strength to strength. Those of you who were here last year will know of my enthusiasm for a project a number of my charitable organizations have been doing together to regenerate a town in the Midlands in Lancashire called Burnley. This rather splendidly “joined-up” work has a new strand which my School has been championing: a collaborative textile project which is teaching local people, particularly women, techniques for making fabrics such as felt and developing them into marketable products. I could not believe more strongly that this bringing together of traditional craft techniques with the often harsh realities of local economics and market forces is perhaps the key to keeping traditions alive and providing a durable source of employment and income for disadvantaged local communities. So the Handmade in Burnley label will be available, I’m reliably informed, by the end of the year!

The story is no less impressive overseas, where we have been expanding our work in the Caribbean, Middle East and South East Asia. To give just one example, I was incredibly impressed by the workshop and exhibition organized in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which has succeeded in reinvigorating local craft traditions including pottery and wood carving, again I hope you’ve seen the examples here. In a single day, I’m told, some $11,000 of sales were achieved which sounds to me pretty remarkable by any standards! But I think it’s important to remember that perhaps the real value lies in helping to raise aspirations and levels of self-worth and is part of a whole capacity building aspect, which is so important.

I just want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all this year’s students. They really have surpassed themselves in the quality and diversity of the work I have seen today. It know it’s invidious to single out any particular students from so strong a field. But I hope you will forgive me, Ladies and Gentlemen, for just mentioning Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh because marvellous drawings and paintings have won her an academic Distinction. Also Dana Awartani – who has achieved a Distinction for her studies in Islamic traditional and architectural arts which really do deserve the highest possible praise.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the help of our supporters and the dedication of our staff at the School. I don’t know how Khaled Azzam, David Green and the team here manage it, but somehow they succeed in inspiring students and steering the administration of the School with incredible skill, year after year.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Jerwood Foundation it gives me great pleasure to announce that the winner of this year’s Jerwood prize is … wait for it … Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh.

She’s followed by the winner of this year’s Barakat Prize for outstanding artwork within the Islamic Art tradition, Roya Souag.