Speech Archive | Wolverhampton Speakers Club

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Speech Archive - Some Selected Speeches

In this archive we will from time-to-time include the full texts of some of our members' speeches. They are included here to illustrate either what we typically do or because we feel that they are outstanding in some way.

Please click each speech title to view or close a speech.

Please note that each author retains the copyright of the speech.
  • "The Death of the Old Black" - Ralph Weaver - Word Painting

    Madam Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen

    Am I getting old or do you too feel our past life seemed better?

    I was witness to the demise of the old Black - more than three and a half decades ago - and to those last gasps of life.

    There was no mourning - no sense of loss or feelings of bereavement – then.

    For over 80 years the Black had stood - grown sturdy, solid and developed: seen two world wars and the fall of empire and worked on thousands of tons of iron and steel throughout.

    My grandfather had worked with the Black - dressed in the waistcoat, neckerchief and flat cap that were the workers uniform of the day. My father too had worked with the Black, but I was the one to see the life essence ripped from this major part of three generations.

    I had known the Black for nearly half of my working life till then. The other half enduring the high pitched screaming and chattering, ear-wrenching of the ‘Bright’, where the multi-spindle automatic lathes made the silvery steel stock yield into screws and fixings by gouging out the metal from the rotating steel that whipped and screamed their pain through the works that was flooded with the stench of hot cutting oil - and always, always the crunch of swarf underfoot.

    Not so with the Black - here was a dark, cavernous netherworld - the lighting dimmed and hooded by a shroud of smoke and fume and soot - not quite a fog - that gave an eerie primordial subterranean feel and restricted vision into its further reaches - till you got used to the light that was infected with the ruddy glow from the growling fiery furnaces that heated the billets.

    Each furnace stood sentry to a steam driven forge hammer - each a great ominous bulk of metal, oil and dirt - wheezing steam and compressed air, dribbling oil and water as it strained to hoist the top die. Struggling to hold it the two foot or so above the die block while the forgemaster, one of the two men who pandered to the whims to feed the snorting monster, wrangled a fiery tipped billet from the furnace and wrestled the tongs to locate it in the die (whilst fighting shy of the heat) - to leave just the yellow-hot nub just visible above the dieblock.

    - WHOPPP!!! -

    The top die lowered with the grace of an Olympian in slow motion to kiss the billet locating it firmly in the die - there was no escape now. Then, just as quickly, the die head reared up its slide - reversed and ...

    - BANG!!! -

    The full force of eighty tons of steel, steam and gravity shook the very foundations of the area as hardened steel die smashed onto the still glowing hot billet. Showers of red-hot scale festooned from the impact, and the top die withdrew back to its attack position - poised there - waiting - while the other servant of the machine wrestled the now reformed billet from the die and tossed it aside to its next process.

    The forgemaster had already dragged the next billet from its inferno and loaded the die to do it all again - and so it went on sixteen sweltering hours a day - there the two gladiators of iron, heat and noise tended the forge hammer, synchronised like a clockwork toy - this ballet acted out on the 40 odd hammers that populated the Black, assaulting the body with an unorchestrated percussion - each and every blow felt through the air and through the black scale coated floor through your feet - through your legs and into every fibre - as though each forge were forcing you to pay heed of its the presence and pure power.

    What made the Black welcoming for me were the smells:

    - of heat

    - of burnt, black iron and the taints from the furnaces when the men cooked their food and brewed their tea.

    - of the fragrance of sweat and machine oils blended with the steam from the lumbering monoliths and the acrid acid stench of the pickling vats at the far end of the shop - smells of honest labour, toil and heat.

    To outsiders it was just another part of another nut and bolt factory in Darlaston spewing out dust and fumes and noise into the world.

    But to me, at the time, the Black was my world.

    And so Madam Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, although that world has long since passed away - some may say thankfully so - I feel for the old Black as a vibrant, strong, dark and pounding lifeforce - dirty, almost diabolic, almost demonic in nature - but to me - remembered as always warm and welcoming and alive.
  • “My Secret Location" - Carolyn Micklethwaite - Word Painting

    Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen

    Of all the myriad places you visit, some are unforgettable. The memory of that first visit burns deep into my memory.

    There is something about the sea, so changeable, shifting, the light bouncing back to dazzle your eyes. It can assume so many hues of colour. If you look long enough it can be hypnotic, undulating its way to the shore with the softest noise like a gentle breeze.

    The weather is perfect - yes it can happen even in Britain! Approach the way I did and you can park close to the sea where you are elevated over the expanse of blue stretching to the far horizon. The verdant grass area is dotted with picnic tables. A few families are seated producing food from plastic containers. Small children run around in circles. Behind me, facing the sea, stand houses rendered in pastel colours with postage stamp front gardens. Some are three storeys high - what a panorama must be had from the top floor!

    The road gradually steepens and looking above I see the ruins of an impressive grey castle. This ancient fortification stands proud on a rocky outcrop high above the sea. Those who are energetic can climb the twisting path to be met with what must be a spectacular vista. But the sun is high in the sky and the heat wearies the bones so I walk past eight hundred years of history as the road turns back downwards.

    Keeping to one side of the road yields some shade. Cottages line both sides of the street: they face straight on to the pavement, no gardens here. How tempting it is to peer through the front windows to look inside. The windows are small, but if you are quick you can glimpse the insides of living rooms. A rose patterned sofa, a piano, ornaments, a fleeting glimpse of a small rear garden. The ceilings are low and on such a bright day seem gloomy. A tabby cat has found the ideal place to laze away a few hours stretched out on the window sill, seemingly asleep. It's so quiet, hardly a vehicle passes; glancing up, the sky is featureless in its clarity. Not a wisp of cloud, no haze to interrupt the totally azure sky.

    At the bottom of the hill a snake of people patiently waits - but for what? It's just an ordinary house, but instead of a window there is an open space selling local ice cream in a variety of flavours: chocolate, strawberry, rum and raisin and of course the all time popular vanilla – all served in a biscuity waffle cone. It's not hard to choose, no competition, it has to be caramel. It requires a slow walk in the shade to prevent the drip-drip of ice cream down one's clothes.

    Over the road is a cafe serving anything from a cup of tea to a cooked meal. The display of home made cakes is tempting: moist chocolate gateau, carrot cake with a see-through pale white icing, coffee cake topped with walnuts, all arranged on pristine white plates. The aroma of freshly fried fish and chips wafts across to me. I glance at the menu on the wall outside - could I really be hungry after that ice cream? Suddenly, I find myself upstairs tucking into the chocolate gateau and a frothy coffee.

    I look across the road from my seat at the window. A tall grey stone wall forms a backdrop to a small jetty. Children are sitting on the extreme edge dangling their feet in the sea. A few are fishing. There's not a Punch and Judy stall in sight. No kiosks, no hordes of people, no saucy postcards (though I've nothing against them). No tacky shops selling useless flimsy souvenirs. Heaven!

    But what really catches my eye are the far charcoal-grey mountains. You cannot judge their height or distance, they plunge deeply into the sea. They stand as they have done for millions of years. It is a reminder that our human span is just but a blink of the eye. It is blinding to look at the water even with sunglasses. There is little movement of the sea and you would not know if the tide was in or out.

    Walking onwards from the cafe I pass houses set back behind a verge of grass. Some date back to Edwardian times, some are new, but all sit behind crowded gardens in full bloom. There is a shelter further on where you can get relief from the sun or a refuge in bad weather. It's relaxing just to look and stare. No clock-watching, no sense of urgency, just going with the flow.

    But, Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, you cannot stop the flow of time any more than you can stop the ebb and flow of the tides. Reluctantly it is time to head back.

    In this place you can forget the large conurbations, the crowds that always seem to be moving in the opposite direction. The struggle to cross the road, the exhaust fumes, the all-pervading noise.

    You may be wondering where this place is, I am not going to tell you, this is my secret - my secret location.
  • "Dreams" - Karen Duncan - Mean What You Say

    Madam Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.

    I’m sure you will agree that regardless of the start we have in life, we begin to dream. The dreams at night are often forgotten unless particularly nice or really terrifying!!

    More often than not it’s the day dreams that take up hours of our time, as we replay them and make slight changes to the people, the outcomes, whether we get the mansion, the handsome man or woman, the job of our dreams, the fast car, we’re the one that comes out on top.

    But did you ever dream of becoming homeless, having to rely on peoples’ kindness and generosity to get through a day. Or dreamt of being treated differently because you found yourself homeless, the looks or the avoidance of eye contact cause somehow you have now become a leper in society – but you cry I’m still the same, I’m still human, I still dream.

    I’m sure we have all walked passed someone that has their hand stretched out hoping, daring to dream we would dig into our deep pockets to give them coin. What do you think when you walk past? It’s not my issue, they deserve it coming here they should go back to their own country, they chose that lifestyle. Maybe you say all to quench the guilt that’s rising in your hearts because not only did you have a coin to spare but you also had time to stop and chat. Do you wonder why they are in that position? Or do you ever think it could be me sat there instead?

    Here are some interesting figures about homelessness, this includes rough sleeping, hidden homeless, and those living in supported accommodation. In the whole of England between 1st Oct and 31st Dec 2011, 12,830 people were accepted as homeless out of this figure 1,810 were foreign nationals. Of these, 280 were from Eastern Europe, 300 were from other EU countries and 1,240 were from the rest of the world.

    4,230 decisions were made about people claiming to be homeless in the West Midlands, those that were accepted as homeless 2,030. Claims in Birmingham 1,598 total accepted 925. And I couldn’t leave out Wolverhampton with a population of 249,500, 169 people made a claim about being homeless, 84 were accepted. Now this is only in the period from 1st Oct to 31st Dec 2011.

    So, are people homeless out of choice? Would you choose a life on the bitter cold streets than to be with your family?

    What if your dream died when you were a child? You were told you were never good enough, and to dream was only foolish – so you do the only thing you know how, you follow your parents model and maybe by doing this you hope to get their approval, but it may lead to a life on the streets, to work with strangers every night, or taking drugs to escape the cold hard reality.

    Are they homeless for a reason or did they just stop dreaming?

    Maybe they had it all, the all that society says we must have to be ‘somebody’. Maybe they had a mortgage, the house full of lovely things; maybe they were married, brought their children to school every morning and went off to work to provide for their family.

    Then the powers that be gambled our money and got the country into debt but instead of making it better they make the country that they claim to love, pay. As companies struggle to pay the extra taxes to bale the government out (Pause) they’re very sorry but they just have to cut your wage.

    Now with a wage cut in place you and your partner can’t live the lifestyle that once came so easily and you begin to have arguments about money – you both dread coming home to a war zone, the children are being affected by this also. The mortgage is getting harder to pay and there’s more school outings, school books and clothes that need to be paid for. Just when you thought the struggle to stay afloat was over and you’re managing within the framework of a tighter budget, your boss says sorry once more and says they’ll have to let you go.

    The dream you once had of becoming a manager, a CEO, a receptionist, whatever, becomes blurred as the arguments at home become hell, you can’t take it anymore and you decide to leave.

    Now what? Where do you go? This is the first time you are out of a job, a house, do you know what help is out there? Do you keep dreaming it’ll get better? Or do face the reality of your situation?

    On any one night in England in autumn 2011, 2,181 people were recorded as sleeping rough. So at a time when the government are trying to find money, they are making further reduction to the funding of services that help the homeless. Which means that there are fewer projects, fewer beds, and people are being turned away.

    Madam Chairman, ladies and gentlemen it’s not about whether they are still dreaming, but are we daring to dream for them.

  • "Priming and the Unconscious Mind" - Claire Tranter - Speech Construction

    Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.

    Are you in control of your emotions? Your behaviours? Your attitudes? I think the majority of the people within this room would reply yes – you are in control of your actions. However, is this really the case?

    This evening, I am going to talk to you about an aspect of human cognition known as priming - which is principally used within the human sub-conscious.

    • I will describe to you what this phenomenon is,
    • how it was discovered within the psychologists’ laboratory,
    • and how it can affect our own lives, here, in the real-world - looking at both the positive and negative effects it can have on our behaviours.

    So, what is priming?

    Psychologists in the 1980’s discovered that the mere exposure to a word can cause an immediate and measurable change in the ease at which similar words are evoked from memory. For example, if you saw the word EAT, or you simply had EAT on your mind (and this can be either consciously or subconsciously), you will be more likely to react (and react faster) to the word SOUP. Even if it is presented to you in a blurry font or quiet whisper.

    This is your brain automatically forming a causal connection between the words EAT and SOUP. This occurs quickly, automatically and effortlessly.

    A spreading cascade of events and elements that the initial primed word is connected to (so in this case EAT would activate elements such as hunger, food, Soup! Now, this automatic activation of similar words, emotions and memories is known as priming, and it can occur in a number of different ways. A common example of this in action is the cocktail party effect. This is the well known phenomenon whereby you are able to hear your name in a different conversation across a loud room filled with people. You are primed to react and tune into that specific word.

    In a recent controlled experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people’s judgments of a stranger. Guess what they had to do to manipulate this perception of a random stranger?

    It was a simple action of the stranger handing them a cup of coffee.

    The study participants, who were all college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to what they thought was a laboratory experiment, they ‘accidentally’ bumped into the lab assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of either hot or iced coffee.

    The lab assistant then proceeded to ask for a hand with the cup of coffee. And that was all it took:

    The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish compared to their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot coffee.

    When I talk about this now, you are probably sitting there thinking, this wouldn’t happen to me. I am in control.

    However, this is your conscious thinking. These psychological studies have been replicated time and time again – seemingly suggesting that our subconscious has a large effect on our actions and behaviours, without our conscious becoming aware of this influence.

    I’m just going to pause for a second here, and tell you all about the classic experiment which opened the flood gates of research on priming.

    The experiment, conducted by Bargh and colleagues at New York University asked students (of around 20 years of age) to assemble a list of sentences. Half used elderly primed words (such as Florida, bald, forgetful) and half used neutral words. Unknown the P’s however, the measure within the experiment was actually how fast they walked from when they finished the experiment to getting the lift down the corridor.

    The researchers found that the people who had been primed with the elderly words walked significantly slower than the control group.

    Now, all of this happened without the word ‘old’ being used and without the participants’ awareness. The idea of old age had not come to their conscious awareness despite their actions changing to reflect this prime.

    This has even been shown to work the other way around. For example, getting a group of 50 year old men to talk about memories of their 20’s, using younger terminology and using word stems to activate youth have all been found to almost temporarily reverse the ageing process – with the men able to complete complex numerical tasks faster than before, resulting in an increased memory ability and faster reaction times.

    Since priming has been brought to the public’s attention, marketing campaigns and advertisers have attempted to use this aspect of an individuals’ social cognition in their promotions.

    A recent study conducted by Harris and colleagues looked at the food industry and the influence that advertising has on our behaviours. They investigated both children and adults and found that when they were exposed to snacking adverts on the TV, children consumed 45% more food compared to the children who hadn’t been exposed to the food campaign.

    They also found that adults consumed more food following the advertising – and this was not related to either hunger or conscious influences. So, perhaps priming has a negative side, subtly influencing our choices and behaviours without our conscious awareness.

    And this can even be seen in extreme cases - going all the way back in WW2, before priming was even psychologically tested. Goebbels, Hitler’s right-hand man has been seen to use an array of psychological manipulation techniques upon the German people at that time, and one of these techniques can now be seen to be due to priming. Priming the concept of Jews with negative associations – for example comparing them to rats, claiming they are dirty, that they are untrustworthy.

    Using words such as’ parasites and uncivilised’ served to enhance the perception that Jews were ‘bad people’.

    However, not all priming has a negative effect. Recent psychological studies have investigated the concept of pro-social behaviour upon the act of helping people in real life.

    Investigators found that after P’s were primed with pro-social thoughts through the use of a word task, P’s were sig more likely to help a confederate pick up books that she had dropped, or donate money to a charity bucket directly after the experiment. When questioned after, participants were once again unaware of being manipulated in this way.

    Mr. Chairman. Ladies and Gentleman.

    Priming is all around us, and we are all susceptible to it. Primes can guide us in real-life – whether we are aware of it or not. For example, most of us think that voting is a deliberate act that reflects our values and assessments of polices. However, data has shown that the mere
    location of the polling station can prime us. For example, support for propositions to increase the funding of schools was sig increased when the polling station was placed within a school compared to another location. Quite a scary thought, thinking that such a small change in our environment can cause a drastic change in our behaviours.

    So, in summary I have talked about priming – what it is and the many disadvantages and advantages of this psychological effect, not only in the laboratory but also how it can affect our lives within the real-world.

    Our sub-conscious is constantly working in the background, influencing our behaviour and attitudes.

    Perhaps we need to rethink the notion that we have complete free will over our behaviours and attitudes!