The Mary Stanfield Public Speaking Competition

Posted on September 21, 2020

Mary Stanfield was a stalwart of The Friends’ School; she gave devoted and loyal service during her 36 years as a teacher at the School (from 1927 – 1963). Mary was a teacher of English and a lover of Drama and she was instrumental in the introduction of literary evenings that were held every Friday during the winter term at the School. Mary was affectionately known to generations of Friends’ Students as “Stanna” and was known (during her time as Senior Mistress) to give the new girl prefects a little talk that included the phrase “you must be above reproach”.

As well as fostering her students’ love of literature and drama, Mary was very interested in public speaking, donating an honour board in 1956 for the then Year 11 Lecturettes.

The Mary Stanfield Prize continues to this day as a prestigious prize at Friends’ for Year 10 speakers. The honour board hangs in the stairwell of North Block (at the High School campus).

This year we had four students speak on the topic of “a message to the critics” in the hopes of winning the Mary Stanfield Prize.

Winner, Gryff Connah and Runner Up, Annabel Woolward, with judge Tony Barrett.

Winner, Gryff Connah, began his speech with a fable about a sapling in a forest, happy and content, being beaten down by a group of monkeys with rocks, instantly capturing the attention of the audience. This fable was shared in Year 10 gathering with students by Quaker Advisor, Maddy Walker. He then went on to say that criticism is not always a bad thing, and that we need critics and critical thinking to stand up for what’s right. This point of difference from Gryff, along with his animated and eloquent delivery, made his speech stand out as this years’ winner of the Mary Stanfield Prize.
You can read Gryff’s Speech here.

Runner up, Annabel Woolward, spoke wonderfully well about the lasting effects that criticism can have as we navigate our way through life. She asked us to imagine the impact that these sometimes small criticisms have as we grow and develop from children to young people and into adults. This powerful, well-presented message struck a chord with many in the audience.

Lily Neyland opened her speech powerfully with “Dear Perfectionist” and continued to discuss issues relating to social media, beauty standards and questioning if this endless search for society’s idea of “perfect” is worth the stress that it causes.

Zoe Adams bravely opened the Mary Stanfield speeches with the question: Pink or Blue? She then discussed the gender stereotypes and ideals that are enforced on a young person before they are even born (with gender reveal parties, etc) and the pain that they can cause in the development of young people.

All of our speakers spoke wonderfully and our judge, former Head of Clemes Tony Barrett, had a tough time deciding on the winner and runner up for this year. It takes bravery and confidence to speak on such powerful topics in front of a group of your peers and we thank all of our speakers for their efforts.