If you’ve been reading the blogs I’ve been reading you won’t have missed the disquieting incident of the schoolgirl who won the “speak out” Challenge at Redbridge Regional Final of the Jack Petchey public speaking competition.
I’m not in a fan of ‘competitions‘ in the world of the arts. However I see that formats such as BBC Young Musician does provide certain unique incentives and so on, but on the other hand it can also be a source of huge disappointment and discouragement. More on that at a later date. (maybe)
All that aside, we are where we are, and there is this competition for public speaking. I’m all in favour of public speaking as a hobby, or as a discipline or whatever you’d like to call it. I’m sure it’s a skill that will stand you in good stead in life. But look what’s happened in this case.
I mean, everyone is asking how on earth this speech managed to progress through whatever hoops it had to pass through - local panels etc.- despite clearly breaking the rules, to reach the stage of regional final, let alone win!
- the speech must have a positive and uplifting message - in fact this is one of the core terms of the agreement with the Jack Petchey Foundation.
- a speaker should never inflame or offend the audience or insult others and this, by definition, means that propaganda is ruled out absolutely from the outset.
The speakers had obviously been tutored by a speech and drama coach to substitute arm-semaphore for communication skills. Mannered gesticulation is just as distracting and off-putting in school-age speakers as it is in adults.
I would bet that the real criteria that influenced the judges was the degree of virtue-signalling within the topic, and I’d like to bet that there were a few BDS enthusiasts and BBC devotees in the ranks of the local panel.
The speaker who deserved to win by a country mile because of natural charisma and personality (which shone through despite all that hideous formulaic coaching) was Usama Shahzad.
He should have gone through to represent that school, not the libellous hateful propaganda that seduced the judges. Do read Edgar Davidson’s articles for a fuller version of this story.