This year, the Jack Petchey Speak Out speaking competition was hosted by Alexandra Park School. Year 10 (14 – 15 years of age) students from all over Haringey came together to compete in the Regional Final Stage. I was meant to have been a judge – but due to a debate on Violence Against Women being put in for yesterday afternoon – it meant I would not make it for the briefing of judges and the first half of the speakers – but would be there to listen to the last half, give out certificates to all and the prizes to the winners.
My LibDem colleague, Leader of the LibDem Group on Haringey, stepped ably into the breach.
This year, 20,000 year 10 teenagers from every state school in London and Essex will receive a day’s training in the skills of public speaking. As part of the project each young speaker has the opportunity to Speak Out on any topic they feel strongly about.
And wow – when I walked into the hall – the blast of energy and enthusiasm was electric. I only heard the last six speakers but they were fantastic. They spoke without notes – and what was electrifying – was that they used something inside themselves and their experience – to make their point. Mighty powerful.
There was a sharp intake of breath when one young speaker who was making the point that young people need to think for themselves and be an individual and not just accept being what other people tell you to be said that for two seconds her brother didn’t use his brain, joined in a group committing a crime, and spent the next 18 months in prison. That brought it home.
And the young man who won was talking about how a smile begets a smile. But a frown, begets a grimace, begets a snarl, begets a fist, begets a knife. And then said that his brother was shot and died. But if the beginning of the chain that led to his brother’s death had been a smile – his brother would not have died.
Powerful stuff indeed.
Well done to all the Year 10s who took part and to all those who put in so much time and effort to organise it and making the roaring success it was.