Lampeter Society Public Speaking Competition 2009
This year’s competition, held in the Cliff Tucker Hall on Tuesday 10 March, attracted only five entries (though a sixth speaker – Martyn Smith [MA Ancient History] had to withdraw owing to illness) – but what a five they were! “The standard this year was higher than ever”, said the two judges (both 1966 veterans - Peter Bosley [Chair, Lampeter Society] and Adrian Gaunt), “and all the entrants are to be congratulated. It was extremely difficult to pick the prize-winners.”
The first speaker was John Preston (3rd year Theology), who gave a stimulating talk on The Information Age. Second up was Brenda James, who gave a fascinating account of a journey – From Llanelli to Kilimanjaro via Rome. She was followed by Chris Cornwell (Foundation Studies) who waxed lyrical about The Land Between Two Pillars. Fourth came Ali Chahine (2nd year Ancient History), who gave his view on Going to University at the Present, in the Future and its Value. Finally, David Brits (3rd year Classics and Latin) offered A Brave New World: A Re-evaluation of the [sic] British Citizenship.
Photo: First Prize Winner Chris Cornwell
As well as thorough preparation, the judges were looking for appropriate content, impact, a logical structure, appropriate use of language, good use of the voice, and effective non-verbal communication skills. Detailed, individual, verbal critiques using these criteria were offered to the presenters by the judges.
In the event, the winner of the £175 first prize was Chris Cornwell for his cleverly worked-out, poetically-inspired vision of The Land Between Two Pillars. The second prize-winner (£85) was John Preston for his account of The Information Age.
“We hope next year we will have a larger number of entrants,” said the judges afterwards. “To be able to give an effective presentation is such a valuable life and work skill that really all students should consider taking part. Well done again to all of this year’s entrants.”
The Lampeter Society is grateful to Alex Hunter, post graduate student at UWL, for his efforts within the University to organise and publicise the event.
Read Chris' prize winning speech:
Tonight I talk of two pillars and of the ground between them. And I tell you a story of a speechmaker and his speech - which was a story. He began, “Tonight I talk between two pillars! They are the beginning and end of my story! But more than this my friends, they are the beginning and end themselves. One Pillar is the Fuse in the bud of spring, bleeding and swelling with all the vernal juices that run so plentifully when April opens its wings. That pillar is the morning and all those matutinal mists that break like the gushing, pale sunlight over your breath, leaving no maudlin gasp of the night before. It is the breaching of bleach-fresh air onto the skin of the infant child, the new born babe; wrapped tightly in swaddling and cowering before the new faces, before his new eyes. Or the chick; sprouting like a golden flower from the blue bud of the broken egg. And it is the new faces of flowers turned to their morning sun and the seedlings they have stretched from. And it is fresh and new and great and glorious and the mint and the modern with energy. Clean, crisp, moist, juicy, hot and light and still warm and new born. As my speech remains now; untried and unused, untainted, unconfused. Lithe, lively, spry, lissom of blossom on the bough of the bowing willow tree. Pure, sweet, drinkable, sharp, brisk, clean and crisp, vivid-brilliant and bright and delicate with vibrancy. And here is when you are imbued imbibed with all the vital, votive fluids of life, all too ready to run dry. Here is the opening of an eye.
The speechmaker paused to catch his breath for this manner of dense and frivolous verbiage requires a little light refreshment from time to time and not only for the audience. So once he had refreshed the speechmaker went to continue but he found that he could not for he was a young man and knew only of the first pillar of life. He knew nothing of the second. And so he left to find that second pillar and the end of his story and here lays the middle ground; the summer and the autumn of his day, the middle of his story. And these were the days of bliss and blithe. There lay the wonder of both pillars - here is the truest joy - And here in the middle ground lies the heat and the hotness of sticky, pollen-strewn summer nights and the dozy, half-sleeping Autumn noons, with their blustery carpets of crisp, chocolate-brown leaves falling form the rapidly balding trees, whose arms once throbbed with the glow of greenest spring and now they buckled and blushed with the ripeness of nectar-engorged fruits about its goodness loaded arms and shoulders. OH! How wonderful! How totally and richly full of wonder OH! How gorgeous and sumptuous and full that middle ground is! And how varied and unique and how beautifully similar. Between the two pillars that impress their necessity on all our lives and on all things a wonderful tapestry is stretched. And it is sewn only so that the difference or, if you like, journey, between the two opposite pillars is reconciled and complete and life has been done here. That most awesome and inspiring of things.
But as the autumn of his days grew old and his days and eyes grew dim and cold his returned. Now he was a wizened old man and now he could see his second pillar and so he began to speak again.
“My friends, here is a second pillar. This pillar is the end. It is the evening and the winter. Those cold and frost-fringed fingers of night, which creep about and grope the tides of time. Clutching and clawing at them to draw them to halt. Hacking cruelly at the sinews of the mind and rotting the flesh and withering the soul. The dark and damp and the rancorous and the stink - cacophonous - hysterical old-water-weak and so on… All is weak and weakening all the more, and slowing and drowning in a drought. None of that fluid of life remains to wet the lips and soothe the skin and calm the eyes or balm the joints that creak now with a parched and dusty, crusty and stagnant grind. And it grinds and grinds and grinds and in comes the end. The end. The grind. The end. The begging beard about the wrinkled lips prays for the end and the end here is come. And the pillar is reached. The second pillar is reached. And here is the closing of an eye. And, dear friends, at the second pillar is the end of my story to you. Here is the end... for me.”
Today I have spoken between two pillars and here the end is come.
Further InformationDr Jane Norris-Hill
Tel: 01570 424799
Address: External Affairs, University of Wales, Lampeter, Ceredigion. SA48 7ED.
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