Youth Speaks – 13 November 2018

Belmont Academy hosted this year’s Rotary-sponsored Youth Speaks competition. Three teams were entered in the “senior” category: Belmont Academy, Ayr Academy and Kyle Academy. The formidable judging panel comprised three former teachers (Eileen Haddow, Lynn McWilliam and Allan McWilliam). Club secretary Craig Wilson chaired the event and Kenneth Dickie questioned the teams on their presentations. Organisation of the event was expertly conducted by another former head teacher – our own Hugh Millar.

First up was Kyle, whose topic “Cementing the Foundations of Feminism” alerted us to the trivialisation of feminism and importance of properly directed feminism. After an introduction by Amy Taylor, Elise Graham gave a forceful and knowledgeable account of the pros and cons of feminism which the team believed had been hijacked by some people for the wrong reasons whilst ignoring the real importance of striving for gender equality. She cited the recent Kleenex “man-sized tissues” controversy as an example of this wrongly directed feminism. Gemma McFarland concluded the team’s presentation with a plea to would-be feminists not to be offended by minor issues but to work towards recognition of women’s justified desire for equality.



Next, the Ayr Academy team (Eve McGill, Christie Telfer and Jae Scott) chose to discuss the phenomenon of “Lad-culture” in young society today.

In a thought-provoking discourse Eve painted a stereotypical portrait of a young “lad” in the 1990s “men-behaving-badly” mould; beer-drinking, sweaty, talking football and eating pot-noodles. The team believed that this was no better in today’s world where binge drinking had been taken to extremes such as highlighted in the recent tragic death of a student at Newcastle university. This culture of demonstrative but misplaced masculinity had helped foster misogyny, sexism and homophobia, and had increased the likelihood of both physical and mental abuse of women. In her summing up, Jae maintained that lad-culture should be neither promoted nor ignored.



Last to present were the Belmont Academy team of Evan Smillie, Gregor Mcpherson and Thomas Beard on the subject of “Toxic Masculinity”, a term which was new to the majority of the somewhat older audience!

Gregor, in his introduction, began by asking “why is a man not a man if he shows emotion” or if he chooses to wear pink. Boys are indoctrinated from birth to demonstrate strongly male behaviour and to conform to male stereotypes. Such is Toxic Masculinity. Evan expanded on this by describing how early stereotyping can lead to later serious mental health issues which can even result in suicide. Statistics are startling with suicides among young men being three times greater than in females of the same age. This could be attributed to young men being reluctant to seek help and to talk about these issues due to having been brought up on the notion that “men don’t cry”. Men must be big, strong and assertive. Oblique reference was made in this context to the current president of the US.


After a period of deliberation by the judges, it was announced that the winning team was Kyle Academy, with Belmont Academy runners-up and Ayr a very close third. Lynn McWilliam, speaking for the judges, complimented the trio of teams on their bravery and ability in public speaking whilst offering a few words of friendly advice on presentation techniques.

Winners Kyle Academy

Kyle Academy will now go through to the District finals, sponsored again by Ayr Rotary Club. Runners-up, Belmont Academy, will also compete in the finals under sponsorship by Alloway Rotary Club.

Ayr President, Colin Vooght, presented the winners with their certificates.

Runners Up Belmont Academy

Ayr Academy – a worthy third