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Crowd Person Number Two

18 Dec 2017

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela.

I am an introvert. In School plays I was always counted on to be crowd person number 2, Shepherd number 3 and in our rendition of lion king (I really outdid myself) lion number 1. Don’t get me wrong a one liner was always given to me to make my mums time in the audience seem worthwhile; she would wait in anticipation to hear me say “Let’s go!”, “no room” and “oh no” (gasp). It always troubled me, as looked up at my friends on the stage who played roles like Simba and the Baby Jesus in awe.” How could you stand there and speak in front of all those people?”

I grew up understanding that I simply was not ‘able to do that’ because I was not as loud, not as boisterous and not as confident.

When I look back and see the young person I have become today I feel an indescribable sense of pride (as the montage plays through my mind) as despite the hurdles I’ve had to jump and boy have I jumped, life couldn’t get any better (well, I could win the lottery but ‘se la vi’). I remember watching the videos of previous grand finalists in the workshop still thinking how do they do it? These young people are amazing”

Well, I can now answer that question: everyone has the potential to do whatever they want to do, it just requires you to believe in your own ability and the support of people that guide you through your development and give you the skills that you implement.Together they work in a symbiotic relationship and with this you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. I am an introvert yet I spoke in front of 1,000 people, on a west end stage and had the joy to spread my message. Proving that it doesn’t matter: introvert, extrovert, potato, ‘potatoe’ because you create your own confidence. All the wasted years of playing Shepard 3, the missed opportunities, not applying for roles in the student council due to fear that I would have to speak in assembly. I settled for believing I wasn’t cut out for public speaking simply because no one had given me the chance. It just takes someone to show you what you are capable of and that’s what The Jack Petchey Speak out! challenge did for me.

The “Speak Out!” workshop at my school opened me up to public speaking. It started the demolition of the fear I had for speaking in front of people as I had an epiphany. Without being a good speaker how could I possibly influence successful change, discussion; controversy even. I realised the importance of public speaking because you may have ingenious ideas, innovative and evolutionary but if you truly want to make a change you need to lead that change and how can you if no one can hear your ideas?

As months passed the workshop we did became a faded memory until one fateful day my English teacher Ms Smith came up to me and she asked me “Antonia, are you still up for the Regional Jack Petchey competition?”

So I answered, ” Yeah sure”.

In which she with a gleaming smile replied, “Great.Its next week”

In this moment I just thought should I just let my other class mate do it? As quickly as this thought came into my mind I pushed it out because “he who is not courageous will not achieve nothing in his life” words spoken by the Champion Muhammad Ali. This is where hindsight is bliss: without this decision to go to the regional final the string of events that have made me the person I am today would never have occurred. I would not have met the talented and diverse young people all around London and Essex who inspire me so much, all whom I can see as the great and fair leaders for the next generation (who will lower taxes, save the NHS and start the ball rolling for the colonisation of Mars) and I wouldn’t have developed a love for public speaking.

“Life is not measured by the moment of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away”, being able to speak on a stage, in front of an audience for the first time and to be awarded 1st place not as a character but for being me definitely took my breath away and on that consensus my life has just begun.

The Speak out challenge is an experience that I have been gifted to have been a part of- the largest youth public speaking competition around the world. It has inspired me to utilise every opportunity because you just don’t where it will lead. I don’t know what I want to be when I am older but I do know who I want to be: someone who speaks out against political injustices, encourages debate and no longer is crowd person number 3 because your voice is not heard in a crowd and I will never become silent about the things that matter ever again as that is the day that “our lives end” as MLK so nicely puts it. The most important lesson that the speak out challenge has taught me is that “it always seems impossible until it’s done”. I get exhausted just by looking at a vast peak but when I reach the top, yes the view is amazing but the journey it takes to get there that’s what makes it truly beautiful and you just wish you could do it again.

Antonia Antrobus-Higgins, Wandsworth Regional Champion 2016-17 and Runner-Up, Grand Final 2016-17