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Interview

By Stuart Guertin on 22.3.2024

Kent Debating Society

Formed this year by secondary school friends Ben Bowles and Tom Barker, the Kent Debating society has quickly amassed over 50 members including a regular cohort of 10 to 20 members that make up the 30 or so people that each debate usually draws. Ben is a computer science student whilst Tom studies law; this is indicative of the diversity of a society that boasts members from the whole spectrum of courses that the University of Kent offers.

The key facet of the Kent Debating society which separates it from all other debating societies is that its format is based on British Parliamentary Debating rules. Where as members of other debating societies come to a debate with their position already decided on the declared issue, members of the Kent Debating society do not have this luxury as they enter as pairs and are assigned at random which side they must take. Each pair is given 15 minutes to prepare for a 5 minute speech to argue their point of view. At the end of the speeches a winner is decided by the audience and each participant is rewarded with feedback from the experienced members. Apart from the increase in public speaking confidence members of the society also gain skills that will help with future careers.

I asked club president Tom Barker the following questions:

As club president what has been your proudest achievement?
Proudest achievement as President was the moment when I realised we’d established a successful society. There were a few obstacles in setting it up in the first place and a lot of time and effort had gone into making sure the society was well organised and well ran. Yet there was still always this slight apprehension that nobody would show up to our first debate or nobody would want to speak. Thankfully these concerns were unfounded and we continue to see our membership and attendance increase on a weekly basis.

What has been your most memorable debate?
Probably our end of term Xmas debate. It was on whether Santa Clause should be detained for the various crimes he perpetually gets away with. We like to have a mixture of serious and light-hearted topics covering a wide range of subjects to cater to the interests of our diverse membership and this was probably the funniest one.

Where would you like the society to be?
Building on our foundations to continue the increase in membership/attendance (and their diversity) whilst maintaining our open and welcoming atmosphere. We have a lot of plans in the pipeline that are starting to be realised now we have a strong core-membership. Those include becoming a force on the national debating circuit, becoming a presence in student politics (as you will start to see with our involvement in the elections this year) and becoming engaged with the wider community through a number of initiatives I am working on establishing at the moment. So to see them come to fruition would be great also.

What are the most important skills members of the society develop?
Confidence, general public speaking and advocacy. These are all incredibly important for real-life situations whether it be making presentations in future assessments/careers or persuading your boss to give you a pay rise!

The Kent Debating society meets every Wednesday at 6pm in Darwin lecture theatre one; recent topics featured include monarchy, monogamy and piracy (the kind on the high seas of the internet not the kind off the coast of Somalia). Further information can be found on http://www.kentdebating.co.uk/.

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