I arrived at the Civic Centre quite early – our teams the first of them there. On arriving, I was directed to a desk where they checked my name off an attendance list and gave me a badge, which I later used to get past reception and into the building. When the rest of the teams arrived, we were told to go up to the 8th floor, where we would be seated and the competition would commence. Upon which, my teammate, Lillia, commented that her grandma had said the 8th floor toilets were the best ones – I later tried them out and can vouch for her.
Upstairs, parents and teams were separated – schools on the left and audience on the right. We were shown our seats, then Lillia, Abi, and I were taken up to the stage to figure out how to use the mics; they were small bars, unlike ones on stands, that you had to turn on and off every time you stood up to speak. I can admit I felt quite official standing on that stage, you could guess it was used for important meetings and such. Each team member held a sign telling the audience what position they were. The timekeeper then wished us luck and we took our seats.
After the arrival of the other schools – Boundary Oak and West Hill Park (each with two teams), a member of the Rotary club introduced the evening. A bell then was rung as – to my surprise - the mayor entered, who then took her place as a judge.
The intermediate groups were to go first, and then the seniors (my team). The first group, Boundary Oak, took to the stage, with the motion ‘this house believes GCSE’s are no longer relevant’, followed by West Hill Parks ‘are schools the only key to success?’, and, penultimately, our intermediate team with ‘are we heading into a dystopian dark age?’, ending with another West Hill Park team’s ‘do fairy tales affect children’s perception of reality?’ – one which I particularly enjoyed, though I wasn’t there to judge. Now time for the senior’s section – our team was the last of the evening so Boundary Oak’s ‘this house believes protests are ineffective’ began. While watching them, I began to calm my nerves, knowing I’d be up there in a minute.
Finally, time for our team, with ‘is poetry more powerful than the novel?’. Abi, Lillia, and I, walked up to our seats. Without further hesitation, I turned on my mic and began my speech. The audience’s presence encouraged me and so with each sentence I grew more and more confident. My speech began with an explanation of our motion - what power truly means - and I reassured that we would be focusing on the positive affects of power, and how novels and poems alike use this to influence you and society to progress into better entities. I then gave a summary of the points Abi and Lillia would be making.
Lillia’s point contained how novels hold significant impact throughout the centuries, including an example of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and how he used an allegory to express contemporary ideas about kindness, relevant to his era. Abi’s discussion of poetry explored how it can be used as a tool to tackle injustice and discrimination, it’s effectiveness without the use of many words, and it’s relevance in today’s society.
I ended my introduction and passed it to our proposer, Abi. She spoke thoroughly about the many types of poetry and the different impacts they have. She mentioned the rap group NWA, and their career’s impact on society. Abi talked about Maya Angelou; a great poet, writer, director, and much more – quoting a section of her poem ‘Still I Rise’.
I then passed it onto Lillia, who dived into the community and fanbases of books, and the way they serve as a positive influence on readers alike. As I mentioned in my introduction, she spoke about A Christmas carol and how its impact has remained through time. Lillia made some jokes throughout her speech, and was unanimously met with a ripple of laughter through the audience.
I finished off with my conclusion, relaying Abi and Lillia’s respective points to the audience – the simple art of poetry and the timeless impact of the novel, letting the audience make the ultimate decision – is poetry more powerful than the novel? Though the ultimate decision of the evening was yet to come – where did we place?
While the judges looked over their notes and deliberated, a quiz was held by a member of the rotary club. Everyone was happy to get involved and the riddle questions had us all stumped. For example, a butcher is 6’ tall, what does he weigh? Meat! Lillia and I thought it was going to involve a complicated physics equation.
The time came for the judges to announce the results, and we all took our paces in anticipation. A Rotary member introduced the judge, Pamela Bryant – she gave the teams some helpful tips on our presentation and began. Intermediate section; runners up, West hill Park, with ‘are schools the only key to success?’ And winners, west hill park’s other team with ‘do fairy tales affect children’s perception of reality?’ We were disappointed for our intermediate team, but still anxious for the senior results. Senior section; runners up, Boundary Oak with ‘this house believes protests are ineffective’ and winners, Crofton school, with ‘is poetry more powerful than the novel?’ Both teams were ecstatic with the win for our senior team. I was called upon stage to collect the trophy, as was Abi to collect our prizes. I stood incredibly proud as we took pictures with the trophy, glad to have won and represented the school.
I talked to some of the judges and Rotary members afterwards. They congratulated the team, and spoke about the regionals round that we had just qualified for. I’m wholly nervous for it, but excited to do it all over again.
Lillia's article showing her perspective of the Youth Speaks competition can be read here.
Mollie D, Year 10 - The Chairperson for the performance.