International Centenary Celebrations

Mme Patricia Curd

In order to enable the maximum number of international members to attend the celebrations and the ESU annual international council meeting, both were held at the same time as the International Public Speaking Competition, 14 – 18thMay 2018.

ESU France was represented at the celebrations and at the ICM by Lucia Dumont, Vice-Chairman ESU France and the chairman of the ESU Loire Valley branch, Patricia Curd.

International Council Meeting

The ICM recorded with great sadness the passing of Margaryta Danilko, President of the International Council since September 2017. Tribute was paid to her life and work and her great dedication to the English-Speaking Union in Ukraine, as well as internationally.

Lord Boateng, Chairman of the ESU of the Commonwealth, opened the meeting by welcoming delegates from twenty-six Countries. He spoke about the enduring relevance of the ESU’s work in a world so challenged by division. The Centenary year presented an opportunity for increased publicity and a rededication of Evelyn Wrench’s founding vision for greater understanding and peace.

Paul Beresford Hill, Chairman of the ESU US, spoke of the recently discovered NGO status of the ESU at the United Nations and in particular the Sustainable Development Goals which include Quality Education (4) and Partnership (17), both key features of the ESU’s international work.

Several delegates gave presentations regarding the work undertaken in their individual countries to promote the work of the ESU. It was agreed that all branches should be encouraged to share details of their work more systematically, as there is much potential for spreading ideas and best practice. Countries wishing to host the ICM 2019 were invited to give presentations. A vote was then taken and Russia was declared the next venue. Margarita Mudrak, chairman of ESU Russia said she will be honoured to welcome everyone to St Petersburg in September 2019.

Following a secret ballot, Howard Kroch, Chairman of ESU Germany, was elected President of the International Council.

All member countries were asked to adopt the ESU branding to enhance international recognition and the ESU guarantee of quality educational and cultural programmes. A new international award for teachers was announced to reward outstanding performance in promoting oracy skills.

James Raven, ESU of the Commonwealth, thanked all member countries for supporting the Centenary International Council Meeting. He expressed the view that in a divided and difficult world, the ESU is doing great work, engaging large numbers of young people and connecting globally through the power of spoken English. There is plenty to celebrate in the Centenary year, and a shared agenda with which to engage for the future.

Celebrations to mark the Centenary of the ESU

Thanks to the team at Dartmouth House, international delegates and guests had a very full itinerary of social events which ran seamlessly during the week of celebrations.

The centenary week began on the evening of Monday 14thMay when, after a formal welcome reception, international members were joined by the IPSC candidates and their guests for a buffet supper.

Tuesday 15thMay, following lunch after a busy morning at the council meeting, delegates and visiting guests were invited to attend a panel discussion “Churchill: the Power of Words” with Lord Watson, ESU Vice-President, Celia Sandys, Churchill’s granddaughter and Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives. This was an interesting discussion which threw light on various aspects of Churchill’s character and career. In the evening we attended a drinks reception followed by a buffet supper composed of dishes celebrating the diversity of the nations represented.

Lord Watson, Patricia Curd and Lucia Dumont


The afternoon of Wednesday 16thMay provided a dilemma for most delegates because the international itinerary clashed with the prepared speech heats of the IPSC. Some of us attended the heats and some made the journey across London to the Globe Theatre to see a modern, if unusual, performance of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”. The director, Michelle Terry, had promised that her work at the Globe would ‘be gender blind, race blind, disability blind’ and the performance lived up to her word. Orlando was played by a young woman, while the heroine Rosalind was played by a very tall young man and her cousin Celia was portrayed by a deaf actor using sign language. It was light-hearted and most enjoyable. Afterwards, following a leisurely walk along the Thames, delegates and guests were joined by Board members and representatives of various UK branches for a Centenary Gala Dinner in the Long Gallery at Dartmouth House. The guest speaker was Benet Brandreth QC. Benet, a former soldier with the Black Watch, is an intellectual property barrister by day, and by night he writes novels and performs on radio and in the theatre. He is an authority on Shakespeare and has twice been named International Public Speaking Champion.

Thursday was “Royalty Day”. The Chesterfield Hotel was the venue in the morning for a talk by Dr. Barry Twigg entitled “The English Speaking World and Royal Weddings”. Dr. Twigg has been involved with various roles and activities at Buckingham Palace for over 25 years and has a particular knowledge of the Royal Collection. He put a large collection of memorabilia from previous royal marriages on display. He explained that royal marriages are very important to the country as the new spouse brings fresh ideas and influences and often does considerable work to promote the UK around the world. He spoke in particular about the work done by the Duke of Edinburgh; Princess Diana; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Sophie, Duchess of Wessex and Megan Markle, the now Duchess of Sussex.

After an early lunch, coaches arrived to transport everyone to St. James’ Palace for a reception in the presence of the ESU President, HRH The Princess Royal. The fifty-one IPSC candidates had been invited together with their accompanying guests. The reception took place in a spectacular gallery. Next-door was a room which though much smaller, in contrast was delightfully personal, containing family photographs and paintings. HRH spoke to each of the candidates in turn before addressing the audience in her role as ESU President. The rest of the day was free. Most delegates made their way back to Dartmouth House, window shopping along Oxford Street on the way, before preparing to spend time among friends at various gatherings taking place in the evening.

Friday was “International Public Speaking Day”. Following the announcement of the names of the seven finalists, lunch was enjoyed by all at Dartmouth House before setting out on the short walk to the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street for the grand finals. The standard was amazing; the judges took little time in their deliberations before announcing the winner, Johanne Jazmin Tan Jabines from the Philippines, whose speech on the theme “The Best Way to Predict the Future” was entitled “One Hour at a Time”. Back at Dartmouth House, the fifty-one candidates relaxed together in the courtyard and with much fun and laughter enjoyed the time they still had together at a closing reception and buffet supper.

Dartmouth House was open on Saturday 19thMay for a celebration of the Royal Wedding to which members and guests were all invited. Around 40 people gathered to watch the wedding ceremony of Harry and Megan on a large screen before enjoying a Royal Buffet Lunch prepared by the chefs in the kitchens of the Chesterfield Hotel next door. A perfect end to a very busy week.

International Public Speaking Competition 2018

The 38th International Public Speaking Competition which ran from 14 – 18thMay 2018 provided the annual opportunity for the ESU to bring young people and ESU members together from all over the world. This being a very special year in our calendar, candidates and their accompanying guests were invited to celebrate the centenary along with members gathered in London for the annual International Council Meeting, 15 - 16thMay.

Fifty-one countries were represented at the competition finals in London. The French candidate was 16 year old Laure Chabenat, a student at the Lycée Saint Louis in Saumur, who was the winner of the French National Public Speaking Competition in English which took place in Angers in March.

Laure was accompanied on her trip to London by her father. Together they attended the opening reception at Dartmouth House but work commitments meant M. Chabenat needed to return to France later that evening. Any concerns her parents may have had about Laure were dismissed the following morning when they received a message saying she couldn’t believe she was really sitting down to breakfast with a group of new friends from different countries spread all around the world.

Bonding games and introductions took place on Tuesday morning. In turn the candidates delivered previously prepared presentations about themselves and their countries. After lunch the afternoon was spent training with their mentors for the prepared speech heats and the impromptu speeches that would take place Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday morning the candidates enjoyed a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre before taking part in a special workshop in the rehearsal rooms. At lunchtime Laure was joined by her mother and her English teacher, Nathalie Bozec, who had travelled to London to support her during the competition and to accompany her on her return journey to France.

The first round of heats, the Prepared Speeches, took place on Wednesday afternoon. The theme was “Great artists have no country”. The students gave an amazing variety of original interpretations of this single theme. In a speech entitled “Let’s think out of the Box…out of the Frame”, Laure delivered the message that we should all be more like artists: inspired, open-minded, brave and adventurous, in order to create the world we want to live in.

The impromptu speech rounds took place Thursday morning. The students had just 15 minutes to prepare a 3 minute speech on a subject they had selected from a list of three titles. Laure spoke on the subject of “slavery”, urging the audience not to be slaves to technology.

In the afternoon the candidates were escorted to the reception at St. James’ Palace. Each candidate was in turn presented to HRH, the Princess Royal by the Chairman of the ESU of the Commonwealth, Lord Paul Boateng. Proud parents and accompanying guests tried to get closer to hear what was being said. For each and every one this was a very special moment they will never forget.

The names of the seven finalists were announced Friday morning. The seven candidates represented China, Lebanon, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong, the USA and Estonia.

The theme of the speeches for the grand final which took place in the auditorium at the Royal Institution was “The Best Way to Invent the Future is to Invent It”. Each of the finalists was welcomed by a noisy reception from their colleagues prior to delivering their speech and each received an equally noisy standing ovation on its completion. The audience was stunned by the high standard of all seven speeches. The jury was chaired by Alan Johnson who served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010. The other judges were Tommy Seagull, winner of the ESU International and English Schools Mace, 2012, and Amanda Moorghen, leader of the Impact and Resources team at the ESU. The judges’ decision was quickly made and the winner this year was announced: Johanne Jazmin Tan Jabines, from The Philippines. Johanne’s speech was entitled “One Hour at a Time”.

Following the short walk back to Dartmouth House, a reception was held upstairs for the members and guests, whilst outside in the courtyard the candidates gathered for photographs and for fun and games together. What better way for them to end their week together – a week consisting of hard work, of a royal reception, of bowling and pizza and of theatre visits, all accompanied by much fun and laughter along the way.