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Home > News and views > London Branch Chair’s annual report for 2022

London Branch Chair’s annual report for 2022


‘It has been a year of change for the London Branch of the ESU. We were saddened by the death of ESU Patron, the late Queen Elizabeth II, but took joy in strengthening our international friendships when the London Branch sent our Secretary Miles to Pakistan to the ESU International Council Meeting.

We felt the frustrations of waiting for Dartmouth House to re-open following the difficulties of Covid and the effects on the tourism and leisure industry, on which we depend so much for our funding for the educational work of the charity.

Yet the Board is seeing this as an opportunity to work on the membership offering and to use Dartmouth House to generate revenue for the charity as well as to host those cultural and educational events, which you have so kindly attended in the past.

Despite the frustrations and because of your dedication to the ESU we had a limited number of members leave us throughout this difficult time – down from 1346 in December 2021 to 1255 at 5th December 2022. We are so grateful for your loyalty to the London Branch and the ESU as a whole. We hope to increase the numbers of members in our community and grow the London Branch and to widen our charitable educational reach.

This includes supporting the ESU competitions for young people. So we are grateful to the Oracy Group for the sterling judging and hosting of the on-line heats of second round of the ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition in January and February 2022. We then saw the regional finals take place in Dartmouth House in March 2022.

The standard of competitors was incredible and the young people involved spoke with real maturity and thoughtfulness. More than anything, the competition, which sees the Speaker from one team paired with the Chair and Questioner from another, is a reminder of the value of listening and engaging respectfully and with an open mind.

We have just had the first round of this year’s competition, with 13 heats online during November and December. The Education Team, headed by the new Director of Education, Annabel Thomas MacGregor, has been working hard to deliver the competitions and the programmes to widen the charitable reach in London.

We owe a real debt of gratitude to Simon Bucknall who has been the London Branch coordinator of the competitions. He is so dedicated that he is hosting one of the two heats on this evening. Simon will be stepping back in January, so if there is anyone who likes admin please do get in touch.

Likewise if you would like to join the team of judges, we would love to welcome you. You can find the volunteering link here or send an email to

We also hosted the Performing Shakespeare regional finals, which were thrilling and brought Dartmouth House alive with thespian energy.

We have also raised funds at some fantastic events this year.

At the Jubilee afternoon tea, Richard Fitzwilliams talked about Her late Majesty the Queen. The tea in the courtyard was an international affair and we were very pleased to welcome the Chair of the Ukrainian Branch and her daughter. We thank Jane Reid for organising Richard’s talk.

Andrew Lownie kindly spoke on his book Traitor King and we eagerly anticipate his return to talk about his next book.

Following the enormous success of the first debate in Dartmouth House, on freedom and Covid, we saw the formation of the new Speech and Debate Committee. Zain will tell us a little more about their work, but I am in awe of their energy and commitment – 7am meetings are not uncommon. Don’t let that put you off joining them if you think this is something you might be keen on.

The two debates – one on cryptocurrency and one on sanctions – which they have already held have raised thousands of pounds for the charity as well as bringing in a young audience and some very kind donations.

I can assure you that the money we have raised has been used to further the mission of the ESU to promote the use of the English language worldwide and to give young people the speaking and listening skills and the cross-cultural understanding they need to thrive.

The London Branch has supported the travel of a Secondary School Exchange student in attending an American college. It has also sponsored a talented Public Speaking Competition student to spend a week at the ESU’s residential Debate Academy. The London Branch has also supported the LSE debate team in entering an online debating competition.

Our focus is ever on those young people who need higher levels of support and we are grateful to Barbara Firth, Governor and Head of the Education Committee, for proposing 11 primary schools with pupils facing disadvantage for funding to take part in the Discover your Voice primary school programme.

We are grateful to the ESU team led by the Director-General, Jane Easton, and to the work of Rachel Fernandes, Sophia Taylor and Luke Robinson in helping with the London Branch membership and events.

Our plans for 2023 are ambitious. Sarah Harding, fellow Governor, has provided us with guidance for an Annual Plan and Budget, which will help us to set targets and make sure we are delivering for all of you in the London Branch.

To evolve and extend the benefits of ESU membership to an ever broader group of London-based people we have set ourselves the objectives of offering you a varied programme of cultural and social events, of increasing the number of young members, of building links with branches nationally and internationally and to continue our strong support for the educational competitions and programmes.

I hope that you will join us on this journey to make sure the London Branch goes from strength to strength. I am hugely grateful to the work of everyone on the committee, which is a wonderfully positive and supportive group. I am optimistic that you will be kind enough to vote the committee members back in for the next year, so we can work at achieving these targets.’

It was proposed by Miles Contreras-Brown and a seconded by Sarah Harding that this report be adopted. With no objections, the Chair’s Annual Report for 2022 was duly adopted.

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