f you were under the impression that teenagers today communicate solely by grunting and texting , then The Speaker has probably come as a very pleasant surprise.
The series, which reaches its final this week, has been searching for Britain's best young public speaker - and has proved that the UK's adolescents are actually quite an eloquent bunch.
Judge Jo Brand has certainly been impressed by the standard. She says: "When we initially auditioned people there were some pretty ropey speakers, but dotted in among them were not only people who were good, but kids who I really thought had potential if they were guided in the right direction." The comedian was also glad of the chance to challenge a few preconceptions. "It's very easy to fall into the whole tabloid image of teenagers as sort of hoodie-wearing, happyslapping, knife-carrying monsters - and I think we're wrong to do that", she adds.
"It's like elderly people as well, we tend to see them in a very one-dimensional way, and I think this series enables people to see a huge range of different personalities, which I think is very useful." The series might have performed a public service by reassuring viewers that not all teens are feral yobs, but what was in it for the youngsters who agreed to take part? After all, many adults get tongue-tied just thinking about addressing a crowd, so for adolescents, speaking in front of Brand and fellow judges John Amaechi and Jeremy Stockwell, not to mention the TV cameras, must have been a daunting prospect.
Brand believes the contestants had a range of reasons for putting themselves in the spotlight. She explains: "Some were hoping to go into comedy, some were quite actor-ish in the way they presented their speeches, and others were political. …