Hundreds packed into an Edmonton school last night to witness the final of a public speaking challenge.

A total of 16 pupils aged 14 to 15 from schools across the borough turned out to give their speeches at the regional final of the Jack Petchey Speak Out challenge.

Topics ranged from questioning the school system to underestimating the importance of pigs in today’s society.

Few found the spotlight overwhelming, with most speeches using humour to send a profound message.

Aylward School in Windmill Road, Edmonton, hosted the competition, with dancing and singing also part of the night’s entertainment.

Speeches were marked on structure, content and delivery, and 14-year-old Lucy Fleming was announced regional winner.

Her novel way of presenting ways to overcome fear caught the eye of many judges and the Winchmore School pupil admitted her breakthrough had come with days to spare.

She said: “I was inspired by somebody just three days before the speech and thankfully it paid off. I can’t believe that I have won the competition, it’s a real surprise.

“When they counted down from three to one, I really wasn’t expecting my name to be at the end of announcement as the winner. I am really excited to take part in the next round and hopefully I can go all the way.”

She will now go onto the national semi-finals before attempting to reach the grand final in Piccadilly on July 14.

Michael Ronayne, of the Jack Petchey Speakers Trust, said: “I would like to say thank you to Aylward School for providing a stage to host this competition and we had 16 wonderful contestants of great intelligence.

“We all know how difficult it is to speak in front of an audience especially without notes at just 14 or 15 years old.

“Lucy was fantastic and had great confidence in her speech and I have no doubt she will go onto become very successful in speaking to many hundreds of people.”