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Famous faces hail Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award winners

Published 16/05/2016

The Duke of Edinburgh meets Anna Friel
The Duke of Edinburgh meets Anna Friel
Alistair McGowan and Anna Friel share a joke as celebrity award presenters pose for a group photograph at the Duke of Edinburgh Award garden party, at Buckingham Palace

Actress Anna Friel has praised the ethos of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) scheme as she joined a host famous faces congratulating Gold Award recipients.

The star of stage and screen said volunteering - an element of the award - and learning the value of giving back to society was a good lesson to learn in life.

Friel was joined by celebrities including singer Ronan Keating, former England goalkeeper David Seaman, rugby stars Danny Cipriani and James Haskell - who was joined by girlfriend Chole Madeley - comic Alistair McGowan and TV chef Ainsley Harriott at Buckingham Palace for the presentations.

Around 1,000 recipients were presented with their gold awards in the palace's garden - an event that marked the 60th anniversary of the scheme and attended by the duke.

Friel said about the awards: "I'm a mother and I'm going to encourage her (her daughter) to do it, because I never got a chance to do it myself."

The actress said being a "bit of scaredy cat" put her off trying the scheme but now she was becoming more adventurous and had travelled to exotic places in her role as a WWF ambassador.

She added: "To commit yourself to an hour a week for a year volunteering, that's pretty hefty.

"To want to giver back and do something for others, to learn that at a young age - one of life's lessons - it's a good way to start."

Former Boyzone member Keating praised the worth ethic of the recipients: "I'm pleased to be here as an incentive to young people and I'm playing my part by honouring them for their hard work and commitment. All they've achieved is through hard graft."

The singer has recently been awarded the Global Gift Excellence award, honouring the work ha has done for the cancer charity he set up in memory of his late mother, the Marie Keating Foundation.

Keating, who was joined by wife Storm Uechtritz, said: "I'm 39, I started at 16 and I believe very much in hard work myself, and these people here have done this at a young age.

"I've kids and it's important for them to see it takes hard work and commitment to be here."

During the reception, Philip chatted to five of the six-strong crew who became the first women to row the Pacific, completing their 9,200 mile journey in January after nine months.

Laura Penhaul, Natalia Cohen, Emma Mitchell, Meg Dyos and Isabel Burnham brought their weather-worn vessel called Doris to Buckingham Palace's garden.

Ms Cohen said: "He (the duke) asked how long it took to get our sea legs back, and we told about some of the features of the ship."

The Award started in 1956 to bridge the gap between boys leaving school and entering National Service, and since then has grown into the world's leading youth achievement award.

This year, people who are older than the age limit of 24 are being encouraged to tackle a DofE-style initiative - called the Diamond Challenge - to raise money for the scheme.

Some of the star guests were so inspired by the stories they heard that they decided to take on their own Diamond Challenge.

Impressionist and comedian Jon Culshaw told Philip he is planning on going around the London Olympic Stadium track 60 times in a Dalek from Doctor Who.

He said: "When I told him he recoiled slightly, with a look of slight horror as if to say, 'you complete buffoon, you haven't really thought this through'.

"But I think it will happen. I've found that a Matt Smith-era Dalek is the best kind, because you can actually stand up in them. I like the fact that it's a bit barmy, though.

"The biggest hurdle is going to be getting the people who look after the Daleks to let me borrow one, because this would be a force for good, but they don't really like them doing things that aren't evil."

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