By Graham Murray
Photograph by Jason Cooke
QUEEN Victoria emerged victorious in the inaugural Humanities Languages and Social Science Balloon Debate, which was hailed as a great success. She overcame strong challenges from the likes of William Beveridge, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King and Hugo Chavez amongst others on the evening of Tuesday 4th December 2012.
In a ‘standing room only’ event in a buzzing Geoffrey Manton Atrium seven debaters stepped up to deliver their five minute statements: Daniel Kennelly from History, Rodrigue Mauambu from Politics, Hermione St. John Spiggott from Criminology, Max Igbon representing Sociology, Luci O’Grady from Languages, Jonathan Orrill from Public Services and Sara Collinson from English.
After an audience vote, three finalists were selected for the final round: Max Igbon’s Jane Addams, Jonathan Orrill’s William Beveridge and Daniel Kennelly’s Queen Victoria, to enter into a question and answer session with the audience.
Suffrage, sickness and sewage
Max, a local student from Chorlton, had put forward a strong argument for 1931 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jane Addams, keen to stress her fight for women’s suffrage and changes in child labour laws. Jonathan’s increasingly confident performance remarked on the achievements of the 1942 Beveridge Report, most notably the NHS, and the five evils that Beveridge set out to destroy. Daniel was relaxed, confident and witty on stage, pointing to Victoria giving the vote to more than a million working class men, creation of London Sewage system and the achievements between her and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
The Q&A session provided some difficult questions for the finalists, including questions on Victoria’s role in the British Empire, what Sir Beveridge would think of today’s NHS, and why Addams was not a household name, despite her historical importance. All finalists navigated the question and answer stage with tact and good humour, clearly showing their enthusiasm and respect for their chosen figure.
The three finalists all ended with a closing statement, with Max arguing that Addam’s ‘impact had left a footprint today’. Daniel pointed to the fact Victoria is known around the world and oversaw the establishment of many civic systems and structures we still use today. Jonathan contended that Beveridge’s legacy was the most lasting, pointing to Victoria’s British Empire: “God Save the Queen? Yeah thanks for that,” he said.
‘Embodiment of Britishness’
Daniel finished first, with Max coming a close second, and Jonathan third. Following the debate, all three said that despite the fact this was all their first time in debate, they would all love to do it again. The winner, Daniel Kennelly, remarked that he had chosen Queen Victoria as he saw her as the, “embodiment of Britishness”.
In an interview with Dr Janet Mather, who helped organise the event, she says:
“It was wonderful to see so many people – staff and students – coming together for the first ever Faculty event. I was immensely impressed by the quality of the champions’ presentations, and also by the level of audience participation. In particular, it made me realise how proud we should be of our discipline. The champions had selected a wide range of people that had made extremely valuable contributions to the good of humanity – and all of them represented at least one aspect of humanities and social science. Without the kind of teaching carried out in the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, these contributions would be undervalued and the world would be the poorer for it. May I express my admiration of the Dean, Dr Sharon Handley, too, as the first Dean to recognise the importance of engaging the staff and students throughout the Faculty in joint initiatives and being prepared to give so much support to this first one.”