London SE1 website team

Europe’s biggest public speaking event comes to Southwark

400 Southwark secondary school pupils are taking part in the "Speak Out" Challenge this month leading up to a final to be judged by Simon Hughes MP and travel writer Simon Calder.

This spring six hours of public speaking training will be given to 25 year 10 pupils in each school by SpeakersBank, part of the Speakers Trust charity, with funds from the Jack Petchey Foundation.

At the end of each workshop a speech contest is held. The winner goes through to the Southwark borough final. The winner from this final, as long as their marks are high enough, will then go through to the grand London final to be held in July at the Mermaid Theatre.

Judges for the Southwark borough final will include Simon Hughes MP, Southwark-based writer and broadcaster Simon Calder and Cllr Caroline Pigeon.

This challenge is the biggest public speaking event in Europe with prizes totalling 15,000, making it the largest award ever for public speaking.

"Youth today get lots of bad press and I want to see that change," says Jack Petchey OBE.

"I am a great believer in the ability to speak well and with confidence. Most young people hold strong views and feel passionate about them but can't always put that across.

"Our challenge gives them the opportunity to be trained how to express themselves clearly and without fear. This will help them gain a more positive image in the media."

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