Gyles Brandreth challenges kids to take on Just a Minute

The broadcaster and Radio 4 regular tells us about the special test he has lined up for this year's Radio Times Festival - and about the time he taught Miley Cyrus about twerking...

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Now here’s a challenge we won’t hesitate to repeat: Gyles Brandreth is challenging children to speak for Just a Minute.

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The broadcaster and One Show reporter says that as part of his appearance at this year’s Radio Times Festival, he wants to give kids the chance to get up stage in front of an audience and take the challenge which is posed to grown-up celebrities each week on the Radio 4 show.

“I’m launching a project where I want to get kids of various ages to talk impromptu for Just a Minute,” Brandreth says. “Not playing the game Just a Minute, but just to speak for 60 seconds. People don’t speak in the way they used to. What I want people to do is to use a more varied and interesting vocabulary, and encourage young people in particular to use the English language.”

Gyles Brandreth at the Radio Times Festival: tickets here

“I’ve done a few pilots of this in schools,” he adds. “I went to a school where the Head every day got five kids in assembly to speak for one minute. These were children aged eight or nine, who had to get up on to the stage and address the school. It’s really quite a challenge, but an exciting one.”

Brandreth is hoping the audience will rise to that challenge when he appears on stage on Saturday 26th September at 11:30am – and also show people that kids are just as creative when it comes to language as adults.

“I’m in favour of all sorts of words,” he explains. “Because I’m one of the patrons of the Queen’s English Society, they think I will only be in favour of ‘correct English’. I like correct English, but I also like slang, new words, even ‘tweetspeak’. I’m on Twitter, I love ‘Yolo’, because it extends our vocabulary.”

However, some words aren’t actually as new as you might think.

“‘Twerking’, what Miley Cyrus does, is not a new word,” Brandreth points out. “Twerking is actually 200 years old; it’s what used to be called a portmanteau word, combining two words. Twerk combines twist and jerk. I told Miley Cyrus this in a lift coming out of Radio 1. I explained the history of ‘twerking’, and she could barely stifle her yawn. She didn’t seem to be too impressed.”

Does the Just a Minute pro have any advice for his young pretenders?

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“The secret is not to try and tell a joke, because you always trip up as you get to the punchline,” he says. “I think the other secret – and I’m terrible at this – is not to speak too fast. It’s a truism of all public speaking, but if you start too quickly, you gabble and it runs away with you. Just be measured.”

See Gyles Brandreth at this year’s Radio Times Festival, 11:30am Saturday 26th September