ESU International Public Speaking Competition, London

The annual ESU International Public Speaking Competition took place in London between 8 and 12 May 2017.

Forty-eight different countries were represented at the finals this year, including France. The French candidate was 17 year old Jeanne Chassereau from the Lycée Sainte Agnès in Angers. Jeanne was the winner of the regional and French national finals which took place in Angers on the 1 April.

Jeanne flew into Gatwick Airport early in the afternoon of Monday 8 May and was greeted by the Chairman of the ESU Loire Valley branch. Together they travelled by train into central London and then walked the short distance from Victoria station, past Buckingham Palace and through Green Park to Dartmouth House. Other candidates were already congregating in the foyer waiting to meet the team of organisers and mentors who would accompany them and work with them over the next few days. It is to the credit of this team from Dartmouth House that just two hours later at the opening ceremony in the Long Gallery, the participants were seated on the floor exchanging information about themselves, their backgrounds and their countries, and laughing and singing together like old friends.

The candidates were welcomed by Melanie Aplin, Head of International Programmes and Cultural Exchange, and William Stileman, Senior International Programmes Officer and Convenor of the IPSC 2017. Lucia Dumont, President of the International Council and Vice-president of ESU France, addressed the gathering and described the candidates, many of whom were in national dress, as a “wonderful mosaic of faces and cultures”. She continued to say how inspiring it is to see that the ESU had accomplished its mission by bringing together so many young people, “promoting cross-cultural understanding, sharing ideas and developing friendships that will last a lifetime”.

The next two days were taken up with training, which included a workshop in the heart of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and a visit to the Apollo Theatre to enjoy a performance of the musical “Wicked”.

Jeanne’s English teacher Camille Belin travelled to London on Wednesday to support her during the competition and to accompany her on her return journey to France. At 8pm that evening he and Jeanne were practising in Russell Square Gardens in readiness for the first round of heats, the Prepared Speeches, on Thursday morning. The theme was “To Define is to Limit”. The students gave an amazing variety of original interpretations of this single theme. The Impromptu Speech heats followed in the afternoon. In this round the students had 15 minutes to prepare a 3 minute speech on a subject they had selected from a list of three titles.

Congratulations to all the candidates. The judges and the audience were amazed at the high standard of them all.

The names of the 7 finalists were announced at midday on Friday. The 7 represented Mexico, Canada, Australia, China, England & Wales, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. Although not in the finals, Jeanne had a special mention from one of the judges for her highly original speech and her confident delivery. The adjudicators had had a very hard task and were thrilled with the overall quality. Following the announcement everyone made their way to the Royal Institution, just a short walk from Dartmouth House, for lunch and the grand final.

The theme of the speeches for the grand final was “Peace is not an Absence of War”. The jury was chaired by Sophia Cannon, barrister, broadcaster, commentator and author. The other judges were Lewis Iwu, Director of the UK’s Fair Education Alliance and Leena Koenig, Head of Oracy at the ESU. The winner this year was Luke Macaronas (front left) from Australia with his speech “The Inconvenient Truth”. The runner-up was Owen David Thomas Torrey from Canada (front right) with a speech entitled “To Wage War with Peace”.

There are no losers in this competition. As the Danish participant said: " What I like about the IPSC is that it is more than a competition, we get together, we have fun , we don't actually compete against each other. On the contrary, we support each other and learn from each other”.

Thank you to all the team at Dartmouth House, to the organisers and mentors who make this possible. It is the essence of the IPSC, and the essence of the ESU.