The first awards of the Al Rawabi Holding Group prizes for outstanding contribution to Saudi-British relations took place at a ceremony held at the Travellers Club in London on the evening of 23 January.
The two prizes were presented by Mr. Abdulaziz Al Turki, President of the Al Rawabi Group in Al Khobar, who has generously donated them, to be awarded each year through the Saudi–British Society. The event, which was followed by a dinner, was attended by many members of the Society, both British and Saudi, together with guests.
Introducing the ceremony Sir Alan Munro expressed the Society’s great appreciation for Mr. Al Turki’s inspired gesture in donating the prizes. The two winners of these first awards had been chosen from among a list of candidates of high merit nominated by members of the Society.
The two prizewinners, who received their cheques from Mr. Al Turki, were Mr. Bernard Warden, UK organiser of the Saudi-British Sports Cooperation Programme, and Mr. Colin Manning, Headmaster of North Reddish Junior School in Stockport, Cheshire. Both prizewinners gave the gathering stimulating accounts of the extent and the success of their respective work in bringing young people together from both countries.
Mr Bernard Warden has been closely involved with the Saudi-British Sports Cooperation Programme since its inception in 1988. The programme has brought young people from Saudi Arabia and Britain together in cooperative sports projects involving sporting and parasports fixtures, training in sports administration and coaching and in sports medicine, and exchanges of visits. The number of such projects has risen steadily, reaching over 70 in 2006. The funding for the programme has been provided by British Aerospace Systems and the General Presidency of Youth Welfare in Riyadh. Bernard himself worked on sporting links between Britain and Saudi Arabia even before the establishment of the Programme. He organised cultural tours of UK by Saudi youths on behalf of the British Council in Riyadh in the 1980s. From 1987/8 he has been advising and organising events for the groups of Saudi youths coming to visit UK and British youths visiting Saudi Arabia under the Programme. At the Riyadh end the Programme’s Director is Peter Waddell of BAeSystems who in 2002 was awarded the MBE for his role in building Saudi-British relations. The Sports Cooperation Programme makes a major contribution to increasing understanding and contact between young people of our 2 countries.
Mr. Colin Manning, headmaster of North Reddish Junior School, had the vision 13 years ago of establishing a link between his school and a school in Saudi Arabia after his school had won a nationwide competition for knowledge of Saudi Arabia, organised by the Saudi embassy. Following this success he set up the first and only link between a British and Saudi school, between North Reddish and al-Anjal Primary School in Jeddah. Colin Manning has a passionate interest in building understanding between children from our two countries. His school shares a direct communication and learning link for joint projects with its counterpart in Jeddah. The ambassador of Saudi Arabia, HRH Prince Mohamed bin Nawaf, recently visited the school and talked with the pupils. Mr. Manning paid his first visit to Jeddah last year. He believes strongly in the similarity of needs and aspirations of the children of Jeddah and the children of Stockport and the importance of increasing their understanding of each other’s culture, despite the diversity of the worlds in which they live. The two schools are currently engaged in an art project “Vision and Pride” which it is hoped will travel to London, Riyadh and Jeddah. Colin Manning also worked closely with the Saudi Embassy to arrange for 3000 schoolchildren to visit the “Saudi Arabia Days Festival” at Manchester in the summer of 2005.