A Year 7 competition combining photography and oratory proved that public speaking has the power to move people as little else can.
Pupils from the year group ‘bubble’ gathered in the Main School Hall for the final of the contest in which QE’s newest pupils gave speeches describing their submitted photos that were by turns comic and reflective, informative and sad.
Head of Year 7 Tom Harrison said: “This year’s final was a showpiece of some of the finest public speakers Year 7 has to offer. The quality on show was outstanding and I found myself both laughing and close to tears at different speeches.”
He congratulated the overall winner, Zane Shah: “I am extremely proud of Zane, the other finalists and all the boys who put efforts into writing and delivering a speech this year.”
Although the images, which were projected on to a screen, were important to the event, it was, in fact, primarily a test of boys’ abilities as public speakers. They had to speak for up to three minutes about a chosen photo – not necessarily one they had taken themselves – and were judged on the content, style and delivery of their speech. The presentations were judged by the Headmaster, Neil Enright.
Mr Harrison got the proceedings under way with an introductory talk about the power of public speaking in which he mentioned that even the most powerful political leaders in the world can be exposed to ridicule if they show bad communication skills.
The six finalists, one from each Year 7 form, were then introduced by Mr Harrison.
Mathuran Arunan, from Harrisons’ House, spoke about a summer holiday photo from Torquay, recalling how he had spotted an elaborate sand sculpture and recounting funny moments, including thinking he might not survive a ride on a particularly frightening water slide: “What an embarrassing way to die!” He also spoke of how he enjoyed the Devon scenery and the time spent with his family, concluding: “Simple pleasures are often the best.”
Leicester’s Nishchal Thatte also had happy memories of time with his family – in his case, from a trip to Box Hill, where he, too, he enjoyed the scenic vistas: “The best part is, it’s free,” he said, adding that he “would love to cycle there one day”.
For Underne’s Orko Ghosh, it was a family holiday in Wales which generated “memories that we will treasure”.
There were very different emotions in Veer Gali Sanjeev’s speech. The Stapylton finalist took third place after displaying a photo of plastic pollution in a bush and asking: “What are we doing to our planet?”, adding that he felt anger and sadness at “the selfishness of the human race”.
Runner-up, for Broughton, was Shreyas Iyengar. He showed a holiday snap at the white cliffs of Dover. Walking to the top had been an achievement, he said, before adding “but the real take-away was spending time with my family”.
Zane’s winning speech was accompanied by a picture of the sunflower he had grown.
He spoke about growing it – a challenge set by his sister – and how it became a “therapy companion” to help him deal with the huge volume of homework he was receiving in his new School! Then it died, and he was crestfallen, feeling that by leaving it outside during a storm, he had failed to to help it thrive.
Then, however, he had an epiphany, as he realised that “the plant had been helping me” and that, with this horticultural assistance, “I had outgrown my worries” – worries which revolved around starting a new school and making friends there.
Mr Harrison said: “In the end, Zane was triumphant for Pearce House with a speech which talked about how the time he spent caring for a sunflower acted as a helping hand with, and a metaphor for, his first few weeks and months at QE.”
Merits from the annual competition were awarded to all six finalists, and there were also House points – 2 for sixth place, 4 for fifth, 7 for fourth, 10 for third, 14 for second and 20 points for the winner.
“This competition gives every boy the chance to have their voice heard. We firmly believe that our students need not only to develop a range of knowledge and talents within the classroom, but also the communication skills necessary to argue a point and to convey their opinion. It is also a fantastic opportunity for us to get to know a little bit more about our newest group of Elizabethans!” Mr Harrison concluded.