For the third consecutive year Mr Sheppe was in charge of proceedings and he ensured that the evening passed smoothly and pleasantly, producing one of the most successful competitions in recent memory. The Third Form proved an attentive and appreciative audience and a supportive and genial atmosphere ensured that all the competitors, even those who found the pressure of performance a little daunting, enjoyed the event.
This year’s judge was author, journalist and reviewer Susannah Herbert. Susannah is also Director of the Forward Arts Foundation, an organisation that promotes poetry for young people, making her extremely well placed to pass judgement on this event. She offered all the contestants encouragement, advice and appreciation, coming to her conclusions quickly and justifying her choices with sensitivity.
The Third Form section of the evening featured eight boys; Susannah commented on the “uniformity of confidence” across the entire group, which surprised and pleased her. She singled out three boys for particular praise: Edward Acton, Henry Mayhew and Angus Moore. However, her winner was Henry Mayhew for his excellent recitation of William Henley’s Invictus.
The Fourth Form competition saw six boys battle for the top spot. Again, the judge found three performances particularly impressive: Max Blance, Caspian Cowan-Taylor and Fintan Simmons. She was pleased to see that so many boys “knew the power of the words” they spoke; her winner, whose performance was characterised by his “understanding and intonation” was Max Blance, who recited Simon Armitage’s In Our Tenth Year.
The judge found herself “very divided” over the Fifth Form group. She found Tiger Vechamamontien’s performance of Howl by Allen Ginsberg ”immensely enjoyable”, but eventually settled upon Henry Newbould as the winner, for his outstanding performance of Philip Larkin’s Dockery and Son.
The final phase of the evening saw the Sixth Form competition, featuring 14 girls and boys from both the Lower and Upper Sixth. We heard a large variety of poems in this section, but the eventual winner, who the judge found “mesmerising”, was Mark Huang for his performance of WB Yeats’ Broken Dreams.
Of course, congratulations go to all the worthy winners. However, special mention should also be made of Sylvia Yeo and Sasha Arridge who recited poems they had written themselves. Our thanks are also extended to all the competitors, their supporters, the judge and Mr Sheppe for providing us with such excellent entertainment on an otherwise drab Thursday evening in March!