Bromley student challenges misogyny and wins public speaking prize

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 July 2014

Artemis Irvine.

Artemis Irvine.


A talented teenager wowed a theatre audience and won money to invest in her future in the final of Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge.

15-year-old Artemis Irvine, a student at Newstead Wood School, Averbury Road, Orpington, took part in the challenge at the Piccadilly Theatre on July 14.

She was crowned the Grand Champion of the competition, which is the biggest youth public speaking event of its kind in the world.

Artemis was one of just 15 finalists from a total of 18,000 year 10 students from across London and Essex who had been learning public speaking skills through a number of workshops and competitions.

She spoke about “Menstruation, Misogyny and Caitlin Moran” and at times the audience were laughing so much that she had to wait for the noise to die down before she could continue talking.

Her talk delved into what it means to be a feminist and the differences between how boys and girls are treated.

During her speech, she said: “It is a manifestation of misogyny that girls should be made to feel ashamed of a bodily function.”

Artemis defined feminism by using a quote from Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“Feminist- a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. And I hope that’s something everyone in the room can sign up to,” she said.

Artemis and her 14 fellow finalists were judged on their delivery- which included their body language, tone and pace, the structure of their speech and whether it had a clear beginning, middle and end and a thread that carried the audience through, and the content of what they spoke about and whether it was interesting, funny and clear.

After finding out that she had won, Artemis said: “The standard was so high tonight I really didn’t expect to win. Every one of the other speeches was good enough to win. Now that I have won? Well, I feel relieved, and happy with how it went. That so many people enjoyed it is just amazing. That’s the best part.”

Artemis will now receive £2,000 to invest in her future education and £3,000 to be put towards her school.

“I’ll put my share of the money towards my university fees, and the school’s money will be for the English Department to help them buy new books,” she said.

Brenda Emmanus, a broadcaster and journalist and who is currently BBC London News’ Art, Culture and Entertainment Correspondent, was among the Grand Final judges.

She said: “I thought it was one of the most awe inspiring evenings I’ve ever been to, and I think it gives us a real belief and confidence in the next generation. I think what we’ve seen tonight is a testament to how brilliant young people can be, how much conviction and dedication and talent they have and I think we undersell them all the time in the media, and this is just a reflection of the amazing array of talent that we have in our communities. I think Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge! is an absolutely brilliant organisation, a brilliant incentive, and I pray that it goes on for a long time to come.”

Writer, broadcaster and commentator Ben Duncan was also on the judging panel.

He said: “I did public speaking at school, I won a few prizes, but by God none of us were anywhere near the standard of these kids tonight.

“And I think the humility that they showed, the humour, the confidence, I thought at times there was an autocue – absolutely no autocue used at all. So I think they can all hold their heads up proud, be really proud of what they’ve done tonight, and people like me have an awful lot to learn from people like them.”

Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge! was created, in partnership with The Speakers Trust, to encourage young people to develop public speaking skills and build their overall confidence.

The Challenge includes a series of workshops to help entrants develop their speeches and delivery, which are run in schools with the support of teachers.

Now in its ninth year, Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge! has trained over 100,000 young people.

Jack Petchey CBE said; “I am so proud of these young people. Their confidence and ability to express themselves shows that our mission “if you think you can – you can” is being fulfilled”.

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