Wandsworth student reaches semi-finals of public speaking competition talking about the “F” word – feminism

A Wandsworth student has won a place in the semi-finals of the world’s largest youth public speaking event.

Heloise Roberts, 14, from Saint Cecilia’s Church of England School was crowned regional Digital Final Champion in Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge, for her talk about about the importance of feminism. 

Her prize-winning talk, “The F word”, will be among the 37 regional winners from across London and Essex who will compete shortly in the semi-final for one of the 15 places at the Grand Final held at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre in July.

Heloise said: “I am still very very shocked, it was scary, nerves all over the place but it was amazing it feels so good although still very shocked.

“When they said my name the first thing I did was sit down there in shock, I can’t actually remember, this is all a bit blur it happened very quickly.”

Heloise won a £100 Amazon voucher and if she reaches the final will compete for a prize of £5,000 split into a £2,000 bursary for herself and £3,000 for her school.

The regional runner-up went to Nicolas Parker, from Graveney School, Wandsworth, with his speech “Inequality Today” and third place went to Milla Coggin, a pupil at Bolingbroke Academy, also in Wandsworth, with a speech entitled “Am I lady-like enough for you?”.

This year, over 20,000 Year 10 students in over 500 state schools in London and Essex took part in Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge.

Each one of these students receives an all-day public speaking workshop from the speaking and communication charity, Speakers Trust. 

Programme manager at Speakers Trust, Becky Griffith, 48, said: “It is all about confidence. We have students who come into the workshop and say ‘there is absolutely no way I’m taking part, I’m not going to deliver a speech’.

“By the end of the day, we encourage them to stand up in front of people and speak about something they are passionate about. That is a great way to build their confidence.”

Heloise added: “When you’re doing a speech written by yourself and everybody knows that, it makes you more vulnerable, in some way showing or expressing your beliefs.”

Speakers Trust is the UK’s leading public speaking training charity, whose vision is for every young person to speak confidently and be heard.

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