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Francis Dearnley joins panel

14 Jul 2022

On Monday 18th July, Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge! Grand Finalists will take to the stage of the Cambridge Theatre and share their speeches for the last time in this competition.

Every year we have the privilege of listening to the passionate voices of thousands of young people. Every speech is unique and inspiring in its own way, making it an incredibly tough decision to determine who the next Jack Petchey “Speak Out” Challenge! Grand Champion will be. Fortunately, we will be joined by our esteemed panel of judges who are taking on this difficult job. The panel consists of politicians, athletes, presenters, and influencers all known for using their voices to create change. They will judge the competition based on Content, Delivery & Structure and thereby determine who will be crowned the 2022 “Speak Out” Challenge! Champion!

In no particular order, let’s meet the judges! 

Francis Dearnley is Assistant Comment Editor at the Telegraph. He says, “I grew up in a part of the country that had, and still has, very low aspiration. I saw friends who were brighter than me on paper held back by not being given the helping hand we all need to succeed. Empowerment is about giving people tools and information. When you have them, it breeds confidence. Confidence is the most important thing one needs to be empowered.”

We asked Francis, in your experience, what does it mean to find your voice? 

Finding your voice is not the same as finding acceptance. Nor is it the same as winning over an audience, for there are plenty of excellent speakers who deceive.

Your voice can only be measured by yourself. It is about authenticity. Does that spoken word, that written sentence, speak to something in your soul? Then you are a step closer to understanding yourself.

Once you achieve something approaching self-knowledge, it liberates you from the judgements of others, and you can bring that confidence to bear on the world. You have found *your* voice, and it no longer matters what others think. No amount of applause can measure with the feeling of self-worth that comes from speaking what is honest and truthful to you.

Finding your voice is really about being liberated from fear.

What does communication mean to you? 

One could be the most sublime orator in the world – capable of persuading anyone of anything – but if they were unable to listen to somebody else, could they still be called a master of communication? It is as much about listening, and doing so carefully, as it is about opening your mouth. 

Thinking about our young speakers, how can they provoke the change they want to see in the world?

Don’t try. Not yet. Read as much as possible. Speak to as many people as possible. The world has been around a long time, and the chances are it is this way for a reason. Only by really understanding it, and your fellow human beings, are you in a position to judge the world fairly. Then, when you feel you understand it better – and your motivations for wanting to change it – are you in a position, perhaps, to try and do so.