A youth ambassador of St John Ambulance and a championship-leading motorcyclist joined a former leader of the British Army at a college celebration.

General Lord Richard Dannatt, who was Chief of the General Staff from 2006-2009 and is the founder patron of Help for Heroes, was guest of honour at Emmanuel College’s annual prize presentation held at The Sage Gateshead.

The Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo veteran, who also led NATO forces, was interviewed on stage by college head boy Jason Boyle and head girl Nicola Hall before addressing the 1,600-strong audience.

“Life isn’t as simple as ABC, but if you Aim high, Be the best and remember that Courage is key you will give yourself really good prospects in life,” he told students.

They included student success stories, St John National Cadet of the Year Rebecca Cruxton and Chrissy Rouse, who is leading the Triumph Triple Challenge.

The title of Lord Dannatt’s autobiography, Leading from the Front, was chosen as the theme of the event, which brought the whole college, governors, parents and guests together.

The professionalism of student performers was given a spectacular showcase as part of the prize-giving celebrations.

The college orchestra performed Grieg’s piano concerto in A minor and the ensemble band played Mumford & Sons hit I Will Wait.

The cast of Fiddler on the Roof, percussionist Beth Carabine, dancers and the vocal group One Voice also impressed the audience with their performances.

During the evening the best of academic, performing arts and sporting talent, as well as community service, courage and determination, was recognised.

The Wiecek Cup for courage in the face of adversity went to Samuel Pendleton, the Derek Tams Award for personal development went to Shannon Knight and the Harlie Gilbertson Endeavour Award was presented to Emily Miller.

The top prize, the Vardy Award for Excellence, went to Matthew Fairhurst, who was described as a natural linguist with a great sense of humour, academically top of his year, the college’s Young Musician of the Year, an athlete and a basketball, cricket and football player.

Principal Jonathan Winch said it was a night for the students, but he also paid tribute to music department stalwarts Joe Walton and retiring head of music Dr Mike Lynch.