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My 21st World Scout Jamboree experience - by Ben Scruton

25th July 2007
After a stupidly early start, my dad dropped me off at Trowell services where I met the rest of the unit, our leaders and (eventually) our coach! Many photo’s and goodbyes later we chucked ourselves and our luggage on the coach and set off for the 21st World Scout Jamboree, with a scheduled arrival time of somewhere between 12 pm - 2pm!

Upon arrival we set off for our site on the edge of Fjord subcamp, however the leaders had brought some extra stuff with them, so myself and another member of the unit, Matt Slater, ended up with our duffel bags on our backs, daysacks on top of that and a luggage strap going round our waists attached to a huge bag full of Robin Hood costumes, two sets of sleeping stuff and someone else’s sleeping bag!

Needless to say when we eventually got to our camp we were pretty tired! Everyone then went to the task of unpacking and erecting our tents, in the rain and wind! We ended up with a few pole breakages and my tent got damaged when the fabric ripped away from the peg loop, but after a repair job with the trusty old ‘gaffa’ tape it was as good as new! The rest of the day was spend settling in and familiarising ourselves with our surroundings on the jamboree site.

The UK Contingent Party
At the end of the first full day on the Jamboree (whilst it was only UK scouts onsite) there was a party held especially for the 5,000 scouts that formed the UK contingent. Onstage were several great acts including, the BBC radio 1 DJ’s, Liberty X and Lemar. Me and a few of my friends from the Nottingham contingent managed to get right to the front of the stage and although we got extremely muddy it was thoroughly enjoyable.

There was an incredible atmosphere of fun and companionship, but also a great anticipation for the 21st World Scout Jamboree to begin.

28th July 2007: The Opening ceremony
After another atrociously early start (during the whole jamboree we didn’t get up much past 7am at any point!) we breakfasted and set off from our camp, through the global development village (GDV) and into the main arena and the amazing main stage for 9am. There was a wait for the rest of the Jamboree participants to arrive, as the size of the site means that to get across from the far edges to the main arena could take as much as 40 minutes.

However when the Opening Ceremony started it was incredible! Peter Duncan was on stage and introduced the world to the Jamboree and then both Prince William and The Duke of Kent to the stage, it was amazing! Both the VIP’s gave speeches and expressed their gratitude for being invited. From then on it just got better and better!

The London taxi that was the symbol of Britain at the 20th World Scout Jamboree arrived on the back of an AA truck after coming all the way from Thailand, accompanied with some amazing pyrotechnics! But to officially open the Jamboree the World Scout Flag had to be hoisted! And it arrived via three parachutists of the Royal Parachute Regiment who had dived out of plane several miles above us bearing the flag! They executed a perfect landing, delivering the flag and officially opening the incredible 21st World Scout Jamboree!

1st August 2007: The Sunrise Ceremony
The sunrise ceremony consisted of 28 million Scouts around the world renewing their promise at 8 o’clock their own local time. With the hub of this amazing event was of course the Jamboree site, where on the main stage I was privileged enough to renew my promise infront of 42,000 people, broadcasted live across the world!!!!!!!!!!!!

So on the morning of Sunrise ceremony we were all up, out of our tents and in our Jamboree uniforms by 5:30am! And even after that spectacularly early start we realised if we didn’t hurry up we still wouldn’t make it back stage in time! Off we went, running past all the other scouts on their way to the ceremony, shouting our heads off and waving our banners! We arrived back stage with just enough time to chuck our daysacks in the mess tent and get lined up and ready to go on stage and renew our promises!

Once on the stage, the view was staggering! 42,000 scouts representing nearly all the countries in the world, waving their banners, smiling, chanting and all there for the same unifying reason, Scouting! It is a view that I shall never forget and likely as not never match again in my lifetime!

After renewing our promises along with Peter Duncan the UK chief scout, we came off the stage and went to join the rest of the Jamboree participants in getting our Sunrise neckers signed by as many other Scouts from around the world! For me the Sunrise ceremony was the greatest day on the Jamboree, being on the main stage in front of all those people and then getting to meet them all and exchange signatures, handshakes, hugs and kisses! To use a word like spectacular to describe it seems like a great injustice, but what I and no doubt everybody else felt that day can simply not be put into words!

And in renewing our promises then we had also marked the 100th birthday of scouting and thus beginning the next centenary of this amazing youth movement!

Offsite Activities
As well as spending time on the site doing the planned activities such as global development village and learning about other cultures from around the World, we also spend three days off site doing a range of activities:

Gilwell Park Gilwell park is the Scouts Head Quarters in the UK, and during the Jamboree every participant got to visit Gilwell where they laid on a host of activities including climbing, waterslides, go karting, helter skelter, stilt walking, swimming, the mega hard assault course, mountain biking, skateboarding, orienteering, trekking, guided tours, exhibitions of past Jamboree’s and a chance to have some fun!

My favourite part of Gilwell was the assault course that ran downhill through the forests for around half a mile, then a ropes course which you had to negotiate, followed by a climbing wall, then a massive see-saw, followed in quick succession by two very bumpy slides then a run up the huge hill through a netted area, under a tunnel and ending finally with a rope climb to ring the bell which signified the end of the course! We didn’t set the days best time, but we didn’t do that badly either!

Also at Gilwell was Baden Powell’s (the founder of scouting) caravan and Rolls-Royce (named ‘Eccles’ and the ‘Jam-roll’) which were brought for him at the first ever World Scout Jamboree in Crystal palace where every scout donated one penny towards the ‘Eccles’ and ‘Jam-Roll’ as a present for Baden Powell. This was the first time both vehicles had been together in 70 years as the ‘Jam-Roll’ is now in private ownership and is rarely leased out to Gilwell, however the UK Scout Association is in negotiations to re-purchase the car.

Starburst
Starburst was effectively a community support event, where on consecutive days throughout the Jamboree a group of 5,000 Scouts would leave the site to go help re-renovate the area in and around the Jamboree site in some way.

We where told from the outset by our leaders that the better our footwear and clothing where (e.g. walking boots, long sleeved top, and full length trousers) the better job we would get, so on the day we all arrived decked out in our sturdiest gear, and surprise, surprise while the flip flop wearing Brazilians had to go and do litter picking in Chelmsford town centre we got to go into Epping Forest where we were equipped with saws and axes and got to spend the day hacking back the tree’s and shrubbery that had grown over the original Victorian deer runs!

Needless to say we had great fun! Particularly when one of our unit members decided to climb a tree to cut down a branch, he had got half way through the branch when we pointed out to him he was sawing through the branch he was sitting on!

Splash
Splash was half a day of water activities held at nearby Alton Reservoir where you could participate in various water activities including kayaking, bell-boating, canoeing, sailing and dragon boating!

I picked to go on the kayaks, and we spend a great few hours soaking each other and generally messing about on the water, and best of all I didn’t capsize, though I did help someone else to!

We also played a game where were all went in a line and held on the each other kayaks in effect making a raft, then someone was picked to stand up out of their kayak and walk down the raft to one end and back, I believe pretty much everyone who tried it ended up getting wet!

The only disappointment from Splash is that we only got to spend half a day there instead of a full day.

Generally the off-site activities at the Jamboree where great fun and made a welcome change from the Jamboree site, though if I had to pick a favourite it would be Starburst, messing around with saws and axes and getting to be destructive was awesome!

7th August 2007: The Closing Ceremony
It was eerily strange, on the first day of the jamboree it rained, and it rained again at the closing ceremony, but no rain during the jamboree at all. The closing ceremony was the only ceremony to take place in the dark, which made the already amazing pyrotechnics even more astounding!

We set off at around 8 o’clock and walked round the edge of our site to join the ever growing queue of people waiting to get into the main arena, when we eventually arrived we were lucky enough to get some seats right in the middle of the arena. There was a long wait for the ceremony to start but when it did it was spectacular, there were displays from Sweden (who are holding the 22nd World Scout Jamboree), the groups who had won the campfire piece competition, and the international Jamboree cast singing the official song of the Jamboree!

During one of the breaks in the proceedings Peter Duncan (The UK Chief Scout) walked around the arena meeting and greeting all the Scouts, when he get to us, we all jumped up and shook his hand and got photo’s with the great man!

The evening’s celebrations ended with an amazing fireworks display, with each country proudly parading their flags and huge speakers playing the Jamboree song! The atmosphere was amazing! And although we were all soaked to the bone it was an awesome night to remember. But incredibly, it got better. Usually there was an 11 o’clock curfew on site for all participants but on the last night our leader said to us all ‘as long as you’re back at our camp by 7:30 in the morning I don’t care what you do!’ And so we took her at her word quite literally and after a great night out meeting people and messing around with my mates we eventually stumbled back into the site at 7:15 the next morning, just in time to get our tents down, try in vain to stuff all our kit back into our bags and get ready to leave!

8th August 2007: The Last day
It was very hard leaving the Jamboree, it had been our home for nearly 2 weeks, it had changed us all in our own way and for all of us had been a life changing experience. Then came the hardship of lugging all our equipment and our grossly heavy kit bags to the bus terminus, it took us three trips to get all our stuff over to the other side of the camp and rest assured we all went for a bit of shuteye before our coach arrived! On the way to the Jamboree all our gear went onto the coach with ease, but on the way back it took us at least half an hour to squash all the stuff into the luggage hold and even then we had to put half the sleeping bags on the back seat so the driver could actually close the doors!

The way back wasn’t the same as the way there, there were no camp songs or screaming and shouting everyone was fast asleep before we even left the site! And those who couldn’t sleep just sat there quietly thinking about the last two weeks!

The Jamboree has been a life changing experience for all involved, me included. And it saddens me to think I will never get to experience something quite like that ever again, but I’m hooked on the Jamboree buzz and plan to go the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Sweden in 2011 as part of IST (the international support team)!

Ben