Youth Speaks 2020

Update on the regional inter-school public speaking competition

For the last six years, the four local Rotary Clubs, Folkestone, Channel, Romney Marsh and Hythe have organised this inter-school public-speaking competition as part of their involvement with young people. Every year, the competition improves in quality and this year, hosted by Brockhill Performing Arts College and in the presence of Doug Wade, the Hythe Town Mayor, the teams were even more impressive. The quality of presentation of very complex issues was, and this is not an exaggeration, often breathtaking. The event superbly demonstrated the huge potential latent in our young people.

First, the range of topics chosen for discussion was extremely interesting. Then the confident organisation and delivery of every team was most impressive.
In the Intermediate section, Brockhill Performing Arts College challenged our responses to the social issues of sexuality and gender, and the Marsh Academy surgically explored what comprised the greatness in Great Britain. The Folkestone Grammar School for Girls exposed the media to a critical exploration of a celebrity culture and its malign power.

The Senior teams were equally adventurous. Brockhill fielded two teams, one with a fascinating consideration of the social advantages and moral dangers implicit in modern techniques of genetic modification.  The other team surveyed the complexities of male mental health, interestingly presented by a female speaker!  The Girls’ Grammar School coolly and cogently considered the complexities of proportional representation.

The final contributing school was the Harvey Grammar School who, with a degree of stylish verve, thrashed out two somewhat cryptic titles, ‘Progression over Ignorance’ which was about racial attitudes, and, perhaps my favourite title, ‘Would you like the small, medium or large?’  I expected a discussion on, perhaps coffee, but found myself enmeshed in a discussion on, again, genetic modification. 

Such was the bare bones of the afternoon, but the reality was a wonderful two  hours of  mature consideration of really important issues conducted in an atmosphere of keen but friendly competition. All the involved teams were deserved winners (there were no losers) and represented themselves and their schools superbly. Each presented their case with commitment and skill and responded extremely effectively to some acute questioning from representatives of the audience. 

But the competition, perhaps sadly, had to have two declared winners who move on to the regional level of competition. So, by very fine margins, the winner of the Intermediate Competition was the Folkestone Grammar School for Girls with the Marsh Academy second.

In the Senior Competition, again first, was the Girls’ Grammar School and second, Brockhill Performing Arts College.

However, it almost seems wrong to separate the winners because such was the closeness of the result in each section, every participant contributed to the success of the afternoon. The organising Rotary clubs also were winners. It was a huge pleasure to be part of such a valuable and pleasant experience.

I hope that all the team members enjoyed and benefited from the experience and learnt a lot about confidence and voice projection. Above all, I hope they had some awareness of the pleasure they all gave to the audience.