Joshua Arnold

Joshua Arnold, winner of the 2017 Sydney Eisteddfod Verse Speaking (11 Years) event.

A legacy of speech at Sydney Eisteddfod


Sydney Eisteddfod began 1933 to enhance the city’s reputation as a centre for music, 85 years on it continues to uphold the mission of its founders by encouraging young artists in the pursuit of excellence in every branch of the performing arts.

The First Sydney Eisteddfod was established as the top attraction of the city’s annual Music Week festival and originally offered events for singers and musicians only. However, due to demand form elocutionists, the art of speech was added to the program in the form of 18 elocutionary events. 

With interest in radio blossoming many parents were already sending their children to speech and drama lessons. By the mid 1930’s, many verse speaking events staged for children aged between eight and 12 years attracted between 70 and 150 entrants. During these early years, a number future stars honed their skills in this category, among them were Aileen Britten, Sumner Locke-Elliott and Bettina Welch, along with Joy Nichols, who in the early 1950’s became known as the most popular female comedian in the English-speaking world.

In 1936, Sydney Eisteddfod added sections for debaters and public speakers to its program and many of those that participated in these events went on to become leaders in important areas of public life. Today, Speech and Drama events continue to rank importantly in the Sydney Eisteddfod program.