Lisburn pupil is crowned Voice Box champion

Odhran Morris wins the Voice Box Champion Award
Odhran Morris wins the Voice Box Champion Award

Knockmore Primary School pupil Odhran Morris (P3) won the heart of the judges to become champion at the Voice Box Awards when he gave an animated account of his favourite joke.

Twenty budding comedians were shortlisted for the grand final of the Voice Box Awards at Belfast City Hall to raise awareness of the importance of good communication skills.

The Voice Box Awards is a school joke-telling contest run by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) to highlight the crucial role that speech and language development plays in school life, in a fun and engaging way.

Odhran’s favourite joke: “What’s tall, lives in the middle of Paris and wobbles? I don’t know what is tall, lives in the middle of Paris and wobbles? The Trifle Tower!”

Emily Fryers from Tor Bank School also impressed the judges to win the Post-Primary award for her joke.

Local pupils who also competed in the final were Darryl Pye from Fleming Fulton, Natasha Ross from Glenveagh School and Reuben Waters from Beechlawn.

Approximately seven per cent of children in Northern Ireland (or two children in every class of thirty) start school with a developmental language disorder, and a further 2.34% of children start school with a language disorder linked to or co-occurring with another condition such as learning disability, cerebral palsy, and autism spectrum disorder. In areas of social deprivation, speech and language difficulties can occur in above 50% of children.

Over 3,500 competitors, many of whom have never needed a speech and language therapist, have already participated in local heats. The 20 funniest pupils were selected to compete in the live grand final on Monday 5 June 2017.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Nuala McAllister said: “It was great to hear the best jokes that the pupils have to offer. It’s a privilege to host this prestigious event at Belfast City Hall because good communication skills are such a fundamental aspect of a councillor’s role in public life.

“As I embark on my year as Lord Mayor of Belfast, I want to ensure that our city is inclusive to all, including those with a communication disability. As councillors we have a responsibility to ensure we foster communities which are accessible to all our citizens and this includes providing inclusive communication environments.”

Alison McCullough MBE, Head of RCLST Northern Ireland Office said: “This is the fifth Voice Box final, and each year we have been delighted as the numbers of schools, families and speech and language therapists, getting involved, has increased. This event provides an exciting opportunity to engage with elected representatives and promote the importance of speech and language activities within school.

“We are also working with politicians, policy makers and other partners to make society more aware of the impact that a communication difficulty can make to educational attainment, employment and mental health and wellbeing.”