Friday, December 05, 2008

The Winners

Over the last three days, the YFC movement in Montgomeryshire has held a series of inter-club competitions involving various types of public speaking. I adjudicated the 'Seniors' competition, which took the from of a 'Brains Trust'. I've judged 'debates' and straight forward speech making before, but I was a Brains Trust virgin until this week. I found this to be much more difficult than any other form of public speaking to judge - mainly because its an artificial creation. Participants are require to 'compete' against each other at the same time as working as a team. I learnt a lot during the competition, and would value a discussion with other adjudicators about how they approached the task. Anyway, the timetabling did not allow for an adjudication, so in a limited way, this post is it.

First challenge was to find the best 'David Dimbleby'. I was looking for authority, and control of the panel, and a willingness to keep things going when the panel faded a bit - which happened because the three subjects under debate were not known beforehand. There were two outstanding performers, Lyn Pritchard from Berriew, and Gail Lewis from Trefeglwys. I gave it to Gail, but another judge, another day, it could have been Lyn.

Choosing the best panel member was an almost impossible task - because it depends so much on what the judge is looking for. I was looking for eagerness to speak, a good initial contribution (for which there was no opportunity to prepare), engagement with other members of the panel, awareness of the audience, good debating points, and a recognition that the competition needed a balanced performance from all three panel members. There must have been a dozen in the frame, and any of them could have prevailed on another day. My old club, Berriew had two teams, full of wonderful speakers, and there were several others. After much thought, I chose my 'best three' - Roland Davies from Llidiartywaen, Anna Sylvestor and Andy Evans from Llanfair Caereinion. I had to nitpick to help me decide. Andy was a 'big' man in all respects, who dominated his team - but opening contribution tended to be too short. Miss Sylvestor tended to look forward rather than show she was listening to her fellow-panellists, and Roland tended to squeeze out one member of his panel, who was also very good. I think it was Roland's obvious holding back on the third question to compensate which was a crucial factor in me deciding he was the winner. I think some judges may well have gone for Andy.

Final decision was best team. Two worthy winners in my opinion, one of the Berriew teams and Trefeglwys - and it was in large part down to the skill of the two outstanding Chairs. The total of component marks were equal, at 170 out of 200. Again it came down to the approach of the judge. As individuals, the Berriew team were well ahead, but as a team, being attentive to, and stepping in to support each other, Trefeglwys were in front. I could have said equal first, but I really don't like doing this. So I shut my eyes to reflect, and asked myself which had been the best team, in a team competition, and gave it to Tregeglwys.

But the winners were not the star performers. The sheer magnificence of Gary's case for breastfeeding will forever stay with me. "Women are like my sheep, and they're reared mostly on their mothers - and anyway, if they can't feed their own they shouldn't have any kids". And then was the wonderfully libertarian views of Mr Francis from Dyffryn Tanat who defended the rights of an elderly farmer spending a fortune on a flashy new tractor to show off, if that was what he wanted to do. I'd quite like to be asked again.

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