Thursday night saw the return of ‘Dangerous Minds’ to the Speech Hall, Cranleigh’s unique public-speaking championship aimed at promoting free thinking and radical ideas to change the world. Seven finalists from across the School were given only eight minutes to pitch their dangerous ideas to the audience and judging panel, using only their voice, body language and words. This year’s event was expertly hosted by Ella J who won the inaugural ‘Henry Hunt Trophy’ in last year’s competition. Ella emphasised to the audience the genuine importance of opening their minds to new ideas if progress is ever to be made in society.

The opening speaker was Macca G, who immediately hooked the audience’s attention with a story of a young child in the USA who had become permanently disabled owing to her parents forbidding any medical treatment because of their religions beliefs. Macca continued to frame the issue of parents’ views overriding expert opinions of medical professionals in a number of heart-breaking cases involving children, calling for a universal change to the law in all circumstances with an expert ethics committee being granted the right to override parental decisions to protect the human rights of the children involved. 

Biomedical science was also at the forefront of the second talk of the night from Robbie M, with perhaps the most radical idea of the evening; the total abolition and reformation of the UK prison system. Robbie highlighted medical research that has indicated that there are certain genetic components that exist in some humans that have direct links to violent behaviour. Instead of locking these people up after committing an offence, Robbie put forward the solution of early stage genetic testing and vast funding, education, medication and support to those who have the genetic tendencies linked to violence and disorder, thus meaning that crime levels could potentially be drastically reduced. This talk was logical, intellectually challenging and highly thought-provoking.

Charlie M is no stranger to the Dangerous Minds stage, having been the runner-up in the 2019 competition. A natural public-speaker and performer, Charlie had the audience in the palm of his hand right from the start, chastising humans for the evils of procrastination and how this has led to our world being torn apart by so many man-made disasters. Charlie’s vision for a non-profit organisation to act on the most pressing issues on a global scale was a neat solution to a pressing problem, delivered in both a passionate and quirky way by our youngest speaker of the night. 

Taking us into the break was Sukai S who had the most impactful start to her speech out of all of the performers in framing the numbers associated with levels of knife crime in the past few years in Britain. Sukai has a wonderful ability to take the audience with her on her own journey through the streets of East London, where she has experienced the huge impact that knife crime is having on local communities. Her impassioned plea was to the Government to stop trying to ban drill music and for other people to stop glamorising the lifestyle of young men caught up with gangs. By embracing the music and celebrating it as part of British culture, Sukai articulately pinpointed how this terrible epidemic could be stemmed. The audience sat in stunned silence throughout and was clearly directly moved to action by Sukai’s vision for action.

After a short break, another Dangerous Minds veteran, Henry M well and truly made the hairs stand up on the back of their necks, with his radical vision for how to deal with the ongoing climate crisis. Delivered with aplomb and great vigour, the sense of guild in the audience was palpable as they were sternly lectured on how they had the opportunity to deal with rising temperatures around the world, but have been too lazy to do anything about it. Henry went on to argue succinctly and vigorously that the only possible way to deal with this, was through a reduction in population through a global one child policy. A natural on the stage, it has been wonderful to have Henry in the past two competitions and I expect we will see him making many more speeches in the future. 

The penultimate talk was from Henrique G, who already in his short time at Cranleigh has proved to be a highly effective all-rounder, with standout performances on the rugby field, in music concerts, debating and now public speaking as well. It would be fair to say that Henrique truly is a natural when it comes to presenting to an audience. His talk on the merits of public speaking and how this should become a mandatory part of the UK’s national curriculum appeared effortless, masking the hard work that had gone into creating his talk. A natural storyteller, Henrique had the audience hanging on his every word and nodding along enthusiastically as he hammered home his point about how the spoken word has transformed the world and how the gift of public performance has become even more vital in the current troubling times. 

Finishing the evening off was a bombastic performance by Robin who totally took the audience by his surprising remedy to fix the current divisions caused by Britain’s decision to leave the EU. In order to please everyone and to ensure Britain’s position in the world for the next 100 years, Robin proposed the ultimate dream (or nightmare) of Britain becoming the 51st State of America after 31st January 2020. The audience was open-mouthed at first, before questioning themselves as to the fact that this somewhat bizarre plan, could well in fact bring the most ardent Brexiteers and Remainers together, whilst at the same time keeping everyone in Britain happy by really annoying the French and Germans. With fantastic humour, pace and depth, this was a fantastic talk to end the evening on a high.

A tough choice awaited the judging panel of Mr Reader, Dr Saxel, Rev Lewis and Mr Rothwell who were genuinely torn between seven exceptionally high quality performances. They decided that the runner up was Sukai for her passionate talk on a solution to knife crime in Britain. The Henry Hunt Award for the winner of Dangerous Minds 2020 was presented to Henrique for his outstanding speed on the benefits of putting public speaking and oratory back at the forefront of the national curriculum. A truly inspirational evening was had by all Cranleighans that attended and hopefully a large number of them will be inspired to take part in next years edition of Dangerous Minds.