Young public speakers wow judges

The winning team from St Philip Howard Catholic High School in Barnham receive their award for winning the semi final of the Youth Speaks contest at the Weald in Billingshurst. They are pictured with district Rotary chief Doug Price
The winning team from St Philip Howard Catholic High School in Barnham receive their award for winning the semi final of the Youth Speaks contest at the Weald in Billingshurst. They are pictured with district Rotary chief Doug Price
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The future is safe if the talent on display at the Sussex final of Youth Speaks public speaking contest is anything to go by.

Twenty seven of the most talented young speakers in Sussex pitted their wits against each other in the regional intermediate semi final of the of the Youth Speaks Competition, organised by Rotary Great Britain and Ireland, held at the Weald School in Billingshurst.

Girls from the Weald School public speaking team at the Youth Speaks contest

Girls from the Weald School public speaking team at the Youth Speaks contest

T he competitors at the event, aged between 11 and 14, represented schools including St Philip Howard Catholic High School in Barnham, Chichester Free School, The Weald (two teams), Burgess Hill School for Girls, Oathall Community College at Haywards Heath, Priory School in Lewes (two teams) and Worth School at Turners Hill.

St Philip Howard were the winners and along with runners-up Chichester Free School will now go through to the regional final in Farnham, Surrey next month.

The panel of judges - made up of Lucy Pitt, a Horsham-based copywriter, Lucy Cooper, a speech, drama and public speaking tutor and Blaise Tapp from Sussex Newspapers - were wowed by St Philip Howard’s speech, There is no Planet B.

Led by speaker Mollie Finniear, 11, it was a light hearted and original look at the environmental issues facing the world. Mollie grabbed the attention of the audience by talking about her love of Dr Who and her admiration for young Dutch environmentalist Boyan Slat who is on a mission to rid the world’s oceans of litter. She received excellent support from Murren Peskett, 14, who was the team’s chairman, and Georgia Dearnley, 14, who won the individual award for the best vote of thanks.

Georgia’s dad Chris Dearnley, who is also a governor at the school, rang David Carter, the headteacher at St Philip Howard, from the venue to tell him the news.

Mr Dearnley said: “I am absolutely delighted. It was a close pushed thing but we were always very confident that we would do well.

“Mr Carter is delighted - he did not know he was going to get the call.”

Bibi Butten, 11, from Chichester and a pupil at the Free School, won the individual award for best speaker after wowing judges and the audience with her speech on the gruesome subject of Hidden Germs.

Many of those present are since likely to have moved their toothbrush out of the bathroom and away from the toilet. English teacher Holly Sabin was delighted her team won through to the final. She said: “It is the first I have a team in this and I really let them go with the flow. It was all their idea.”

The other individual winner was Walter Hall whose mature performance earned the title of best chairman following his role in the speech Boys will be Boys and Girls will be Girls.

Tony Priestley, who hosted the semi final and is member of the Billingshurst Rotary Club, who organised the event, said: “I thought they were all absolutely brilliant and makes it all worthwhile.”