We're delighted to announce that Ashley came first in the Chrystall Prize public speaking competition and will go through to the final in London in March. The Chrystall Prize is named after Chrystall Carter who was Legal Adviser to the GDST for nine years until her untimely death in 1999. She had a powerful belief in the power of reasoned argument and pushed for public speaking to take a higher role in the GDST. After she died her husband set up the competition. It is a wonderful way for girls to build confidence and have their ideas and voices heard.
Ashley's speech was on the question, 'Is there any magic left in the world?' She spoke with great passion and eloquence about her childhood and the cultural importance of magic in Lagos. Winningly, at the very start she confessed to the audience that she hadn't read a single word of Harry Potter or seen any of the films, so barely knows who Dumbledore is. She moved on to a critique of what she called the 'commodified magic' represented by Disney. The Disney slogan may suggest that all your wishes can come true, but its aim, ultimately, is to make money (and Ashley pointed out that they are worth $92 billion). So, if Harry Potter and Disney are 'fake magic', where is the real magic?
For Ashley, it lies in science and the way it enriches our understanding of the world. She focussed on rainbows and explained two strange and wondrous facts about them - firstly, that they don't exist 'out there' but are an effect of your vision and the angles of refracted light hitting your retina. In other words, rainbows need the eye that perceives them to exist: 'When you close your eyes, the rainbow isn't there'. And if that wasn't strange enough, she followed up with a further fact: no-one knows how many colours are in the rainbow. We see seven, but Aristotle saw only one - violet - and Isaac Newton thought there were five. It varies from culture to culture, depending on how you divide up the spectrum. A strange idea. Rainbows, she argued, symbolise how science adds to our sense of magic and wonder.
Finally, she moved on to language and the ways words are magical, hiding secrets inside them. For example, take the word anthology (and this struck a chord with anyone studying the IGCSE English anthology!). The word 'anthology' comes from the Greek word 'anthos' meaning a flower. So, an anthology is actually a bouquet of flowers. Magical! She clinched the idea by mentioning the most ordinary thing she could possibly think of - a weed: a dandelion. But the word 'dandelion' holds within it its magical etymology - dent de lion or lion's teeth. There was a wonderful moment when she impersonated the first man to notice how the pointy leaves look like lion's teeth. As she said, it all depends on the way you look at things. She ended by saying that although there is plenty of fake magic - FAKE NEWS! - the real magic out there lies in the science of rainbows and the poetry of lions and little weeds.
It was a wonderful speech, most of all, the judges said, in Ashley's delivery. She speaks charismatically, and has an instinctive ability to connect with an audience. She throws her points out rather than hiding behind the pages of a script. The judges praised her warmth, humour and the sheer energy and enjoyment she conveyed (though she was nervous deep down, I know).
So we move on to the final on Friday 9 March. We have never won the Chrystall Prize but with Ashley representing us, this may be our year....