November 25, 2019

JBH Speech Competition 2019

“The hecklers were a lot kinder in my day” commented Old Leightonian, Guy Smith, former winner of Leighton Park School’s unique JBH Speech Competition and attendee at this year’s exciting event on Tuesday 19th November.

The JBH Speech Competition combines prepared speeches on contentious subjects, challenging heckling from the floor and spontaneous, argumentative responses from the speakers, into a most entertaining evening. The prize is awarded to the contestant who delivers the best argument, demonstrates adept handling of hecklers and manages not be diverted completing their delivery with aplomb.

Once again, five students took up the challenge of the 105 year old speaking competition, picking topical and controversial subject matters, and tackling tough heckles from the audience, as is the tradition.

Annie proposed ‘GMOs are the future for food’, Spencer spoke about ‘Love, Pleasure and Relationships: We need to reform Sex-Ed.’, Ruth debated ‘Can climate change only be fixed by societal change?’, Drin proposed ‘Free will is a farce’ and Angelika argued that ‘Everyone should be pro-choice.’

Such was the calibre of the competitors, it was a tough choice to select the winner for the judges Old Leightonians, Michael Binyon and Dame Alice Hudson, along with Reading University’s Professor Clare Furneaux. Dame Alice Hudson was the competition’s first female winner so it seems especially apt that the winner of the 2019  competition was Angelika. The youngest in the competition, being in Year 11, Angelika was praised for her skilful handling of the heckling on an emotive subject.

The competition was founded in 1914 by the school’s first Chair of Governors, JB Hodgkin, who was determined to develop the students’ skills of public speaking and “thinking on their feet”. Speakers must talk for three minutes uninterrupted, withstand seven minutes of heckling whilst continuing and then sum up in a further two minutes.

The list of topics of the speeches since the beginning of the competition puts a mirror up to the history and social changes of the UK.  From “now is the time to make peace” by Joseph Fryer in 1915, to Anglo-Egyptian relations (1951), the Euro (2001), the ordination of women (1989), and nuclear deterrent (1959) to prison reform (2010).

Those at Leighton Park who have put themselves under the spotlight have gone on to be successful in a variety of walks of life. Old Leightonian, Michael Foot, considered by many to be one of Britain’s greatest orators, came in second place, deliberating on the future of the Liberal Party in 1931. Others include the publisher of “Spycatcher” Nick Hudson, celebrated film director Karel Reisz, MP Sir Tony Baldry, and a plethora of barristers.

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