Festival of Spoken Words, Kolkata, India

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Festival of Spoken Words – Kolkata, India

By Anwulika Elliott, Youth Advisory Board

Model Westminster (MW) was privileged and delighted to be invited by the Culcutta Debating Circle to take part in the Festival of Spoken Words, a youth debating festival which took place in Kolkata from the 11th – 15th of December. Representing Model Westminster were three members of the MW Youth Advisory Board, Alice Dermody-Palmer, Natalia Rowczenio, Anwulika Elliott and Grant Fisher, Director of MW.

The Festival of the Spoken Word was not an ordinary debating competition. It was a meeting of minds of different cultures, debating styles, education systems and political views. For the duration of the week, MW travelled across Kolkata with pupils from Boston College High, US; NPS International School, Singapore and Mayo College, India. Every day we would visit two secondary schools where we would engage in a debating workshop with them and then compete with them. Some days we would receive the motions the evening before, and for others we only had 10 minutes to prepare! A few of the debates were India vs The World, and others were mixed teams, which was fun because we had to make friends and work with students from a variety of different schools. It was an intense experience, especially as a key part of the debate format was answering questions from the audience or the opposing team.

The highlights of the trip was when Alice and I won trophies for being the best speakers in our final debates and having the opportunity to speak to Sir Dominic Asquith KCMG, the British High Commissioner to the Republic of India and Mr Bruce Bucknell British Deputy High Commissioner of Kolkata.

Staying with a group of young people from all around the world with global perspectives and open minds was a fantastic experience. I feel like in this modern world we often don’t get the opportunity to speak our minds and have our own opinions challenged and changed.

This trip was especially enlightening because we didn’t stick to the path of a tourist. Instead we were given the opportunity by the Calcutta Debating Circle to be welcomed into schools, meet loads of people and visit local restaurants, so that we could really get a feel for the area. The young people of Calcutta are full of fire and passion and the quality of their debating was such that it shaped and honed my own skills. I learned so much from both my competitors and my team mates and will remember this experience for many years to come.

This experience has inspired us to give Model Westminster a more international outlook where possible and to keep making worldwide bonds and friendships with other organisations that share our aims.

We would like to thank the Trustees and everyone involved in the Calcutta Debating Circle (CDC) for this wonderful opportunity and we hope that MW can continue to support the CDC’s mission of making Public Speaking and Debating accessible for all.”

Below is a selection of some of our favourite photos and you can view the rest (we took loads) on our Facebook page, here.

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