Kingston student one step closer to speaking competition final at West End

By Konstantina Katsikari

18th Mar 2024 | Local Features

Left to right: 3rd place Michal Kepa; 2nd place Lana Puskar; Regional Champion Elijah Gilbert; and Kingston Mayor Cllr Diane White (Photo: Stephen Pover)
Left to right: 3rd place Michal Kepa; 2nd place Lana Puskar; Regional Champion Elijah Gilbert; and Kingston Mayor Cllr Diane White (Photo: Stephen Pover)

A Kingston student is now just one step away from the Grand Final of the UK's largest youth public speaking event due to take place at the West End next July.

Elijah Gilbert, 15, was crowned winner of the Regional Final of the Jack Petchey's 'Speak Out Challenge' which took place at his home turf of Richard Challoner School.

Taking place on Wednesday 13 March, over 30,000 year 10 students in over 500 state schools across London and Essex take part in the annual event.

It is hosted by the UK's leading public speaking and communication charity, Speakers Trust and funded and supported by the Jack Petchey Foundation.

Previous winners of the Grand Final include actors Jamie Flatters and Idris Sobande, entrepreneur Tim Armoo, writer Poppy Noor, and more.

Elijah Gilbert was crowned Regional Champion, with a powerful speech titled 'Words, Words, Words'.

In this speech, he emphasizes the profound impact of words, illustrating their power to change history and personal relationships, and urging the audience to consider the weight of their own words before speaking.

He caught the eyes and ears of the expert judges, which included:

  • Robert O'Dowd, Chief Executive at Rose Theatre, Kingston;
  • Freya McMurray, Solicitor Apprentice, Withers LLP;
  • Mark Alger, Education Liaison Officer at Kingston University;
  • Emily Dyson, Deputy Director at Institute for Voluntary Action Research;
  • Andy Copps, Storyteller and Communication Trainer; and
  • Ayan Naithani, Student at The Kingston Academy and 2023 Regional Final Runner Up.

Elijah now proceeds to the online semi-finals with just 37 other regional champions, before the final 15 are selected for the Grand Final, taking place at Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden on 8 July.

During the training, students are given the skills and the confidence to develop and deliver a competition speech on a topic that is important to them, with the training and competition aiming to amplify young voices.

Elijah said: "What a marvelous experience, empowering young people to achieve what they didn't know they could."

The winner received a £100 gift certificate and is now preparing for the semi-finals.

Runner-Up title went to Lana Puskar, representing The Kingston Academy, with a speech about being proud of her home country Bosnia.

Third place went to Michal Kepa from Richard Challoner School, with a speech titled 'Dedicated follower of fashion?'.

The Worshipful The Mayor of Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Cllr Diane White presented awards to the top winners.

She said: "Thank you so much for inviting me to come along, it was absolutely amazing," describing the speakers as "so brave [and] so courageous".

She added: "But I think it goes beyond this one competition. It's about helping every young person to have the confidence to be able to speak.

"It's such an important skill, to be able to go out and present yourself in the best possible way. And that's what Speakers Trust is. And it's what Jack Petchey does, coming along and believing in young people just gives them all the confidence in the world."

If he makes it to the Grand Final, Elijah Gilbert could be competing not only for the honour of becoming this year's Jack Petchey's Speak Out Challenge Grand Champion but also for the chance to win £5,000, comprising a £2,000 bursary for himself and £3,000 for his school.


New kingston Jobs Section Launched!!
Vacancies updated hourly!!
Click here: kingston jobs


Related Articles

Homegrown success stories are what makes Nub News - this musical example comes from elsewhere in the network, but why not get in touch with your own local story? (Image - James Vincent)
Local Features

Introducing Hardwicke Circus - homegrown rock and roll coming to a town near you

Across the globe, individuals, communities, and organisations are stepping up, demonstrating that actions, both big and small, contribute significantly (Photo: Oliver Monk)
Local Features

Eco-Warriors: Initiatives For A Greener Tomorrow

Sign-Up for our FREE Newsletter

We want to provide Kingston with more and more clickbait-free local news.
To do that, we need a loyal newsletter following.
Help us survive and sign up to our FREE weekly newsletter.

Already subscribed? Thank you. Just press X or click here.
We won't pass your details on to anyone else.
By clicking the Subscribe button you agree to our Privacy Policy.