Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am so impressed, as always, but particularly this year by real quality and beauty of the work that is on show today and I also want to say how very very proud I am of all the students at my School of Traditional Arts.

I established my School originally not just to teach young people the traditional arts and crafts which are in such desperate need of regeneration and support all over the world, but also to give inspiration for young people of many different faiths and backgrounds and from many parts of the globe to understand the principles which connect us all at the most fundamental level.

Those of you who are displaying your work today can congratulate yourselves on what you have achieved here.  But I do so hope that when you return to your home countries you will be able in turn to inspire and encourage others to seek an understanding of these principles.

Of course, the work of my School does not just happen here in Shoreditch. Over the last few years our outreach programme has extended to a diversity of regions, from China to Ecuador, from the Philippines to the Middle East.

I am delighted that my School has signed this week, in Clarence House, a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dunhuang Culture Promotion Foundation and the Dunhuang Research Academy to extend its work in China, which is very encouraging. 

At the School's Fustat Centre in Cairo students, through working with our teacher from London and with the Egyptian  staff, have been enabled to understand fully the technical and symbolic nature of their cultural heritage, and to interpret this through crafting products for the contemporary market. A new centre, similar to the one in Cairo, will soon be established, I am glad to say, in Jeddah.  Indeed, so good are these products, particularly at the Fustat Centre and I hope from other centres that you are now establishing around the world, that I frequently give them away as presents.

Elsewhere, the Centre for Traditional Arts in Baku has been commissioned by the Azerbaijan Ministry of Education to develop and deliver a three year programme for exceptional art students from the Baku Academy of Art. Alumni from the Cairo project are also coming to Baku to teach and therefore passing on their knowledge and skills to a new generation of students.

Of course, all of this has been made possible by the help of our wonderful supporters, the generous collaboration of our partners outside the United Kingdom and the dedication of our staff at the School.  I always hesitate to single out individuals for praise at these events – each one of you here makes an indescribably vital contribution to the teaching and promotion of the traditional arts.  I only hope you are fully aware of just how grateful I am for your support.