This June and July sees the fifth staging of the Schools’ Annual Public Speaking Competition where pupils from secondary schools across Derby compete for the Chris Williamson Trophy.

After a free workshop in public speaking, led by professional theatre company Lost Boys each school holds its own heats. The winner of each heat then advances to participate in the final which this year will be held on Friday 7th July at Derby’s Speakers’ Corner and adjudicated by Cllr Sarah Russell, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, and Chris Williamson himself.

The competition sees scores of young people every year develop their public speaking skills and, just as importantly, their confidence and self-esteem.

Daniel Thornhill, a teacher at the St Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy in Derby, summed up what the competition, and its accompanying workshops, means for students across the city:

“The speaking competition affords students the chance to stand up and speak out. Whether it’s a famous film speech, a political leader’s words or their own creation, watching students from across the city stand and compete with the day-to-day events of Derby city centre is an inspiring experience. The workshop sessions offered by Lost Boys support and develop the students’ confidence and enable them to think about all the elements of a speech – from breathing, to positioning, to structure – vital experiences now that students are assessed on their speaking and listening ability. I can’t recommend the speaking competition highly enough – giving the young people of Derby a voice. The students love it and it’s an essential part of our school calendar”.

This year pupils from Bemrose, Landau Forte, Lees Brook, Murray Park, Noel-Baker and St Benedict’s have all taken part in the competition.

Furthermore, Chris Williamson has ensured that each year the competition winner also receives a hosted visit to the Houses of Parliament. Natasha Coyle, a sixth-former who won the competition in 2016, talked about what the experience meant for her:

“Winning the competition was a great achievement and filled me with confidence that I was an accomplished speaker. The competition has given me the self-belief that I can speak in front of any individual of any age and feel confident within myself. The visit to the Houses of Parliament gave me a great understanding of, and insight into, the world of politics and has enhanced my passion for it.”

As well as being part of a national network of Speakers’ Corners, Derby’s Speakers’ Corner is also where all prospective buskers are auditioned prior to receiving, if successful, their busking licence. In addition, the area around, and including, Speakers’ Corner is often used for some of the city’s major outdoor events such as Festé.