Brent teen comes third out of 27,000 in public speaking competition

Brent teen Grace McCarthy comes third in the "Speak Out" competition

Brent teen Grace McCarthy comes third in the Speak Out competition - Credit: Tony Preece/Speakers Trust

A Brent teenager came third in the world’s largest youth public speaking competition.  

Grace McCarthy of St Gregory’s Catholic Science College participated in Jack Petchey’s Speak Out Challenge! 2022 on July 18 with her speech entitled Do I Need a Longer Skirt?

The student came third out of 27,000 young people by speaking in front of more than 500 people at Covent Garden’s Cambridge Theatre. 

Grace said: “It’s absolutely amazing! I never thought anything like that would ever happen, it’s so surreal. 

“It’s taught me so much about confidence, getting up in front of people and not being afraid to use my voice.  

“A workshop at school has turned into being on a huge stage on the West End, it’s absolutely astounding.” 

Grace McCarthy came third in the public speaking competition 

Grace McCarthy came third in the public speaking competition - Credit: Tony Preece/Speakers Trust

In her speech, Grace discussed women’s safety, the murder of Sarah Everard in 2021 and questions on whether policies put in place by the government are enough to protect women. 

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Grace ended her speech by saying: “So, why is it that a girl has to wonder if her skirt is higher than the emphasis on her safety? 

“Leaving her with nothing but to think, is it always going to be like this? Or do I just need a longer skirt?” 

The winner of the competition was Michael Akinyemi from St Benedict’s Catholic College in Colchester with his speech about his name, his family and immigration. 

Runners up also included Izzy Hilton of Westcliff High School for Girls in Southend and Maya Redley from Leytonstone School, east London. 

Jack Petchey's Speak Out Challenge! is a youth speaking competition to help Year 10 students in London and Essex state schools develop public speaking and communication skills and build confidence. 

Top four and judges

Winner Michael Akinyemi (second right), runner up Izzy Hilton, fourth place Maya Redley, and third place Grace McCarthy with judges. - Credit: Tony Preece/Speakers Trust

This years’ judging panel was comprised of eight journalists, business people and celebrities including the Apprentice winner Tim Campbell, Team GB Olympic coach Montell Douglas, 2016 Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown, permanent secretary for the Department of Education Susan Acland-Hood and last year's competition winner Mayumi Stauntont. 

Tim said: “I’m so proud to be supporting an organisation that helps young people speak out for what they stand for.”    

Watch Grace's speech at