THE local scene has emerged in a significant way in set pieces being performed at the 47th Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival, which also sees a record number of participants this year. The three-week festival (November 13 to December 2) is for the first time using local works in the English syllabus, said Geoff Oliver, chairman of the English Speech sub-committee of the Hong Kong Schools Music and Speech Association, the festival organisers. Some of the 12 poems, penned by five local residents, are about Hong Kong, and carry titles like Lap Sap Lady and Freddy the Weatherman (by Erica Dollisson), and The Biggest Buddha and Saturday is a Race Day at Sha Tin (by Andrew Parkin). 'Many of the adjudicators had suggested we include local works in the English categories to make them more relevant to participants. So we are trying it out in a small way this year,' Mr Oliver said. Prospects for using more such works with a local setting were good because of the great potential here, he added. An English teacher, Mr Oliver has himself written a piece of light verse, Maths Test, for this year's festival. Sze Siu-fong, 16, winner of last year's solo verse speaking (secondary) in Cantonese, is giving herself a challenge this year in the English solo verse class. This is the third year she is taking part in the festival. 'My experience has taught me a lot about style and presentation, and how to express poetry on stage,' said the Fujian-born Belilios Public School Form Two student. This year's festival marks an increase in the number of entries from last year's 21,700 to 23,600, with 62,960 student participants, 1,460 more than last year. The dramatic increase, which occurs in the solo section for both the Chinese (983 more) and English classes (1700 more), is paralleled, however, by a substantial drop in participation in the choral section (750 less for Chinese classes, and 480 less for English ones). 'This may be because some schools don't like the set pieces, or they are scared by the very high standard of competitors. Choral speaking is a big art in Hong Kong. Some schools are of international standard,' Mr Oliver said. This year's festival features 450 Chinese and English classes of verse, prose, drama, Bible, public speaking and original story competitions. Judging the competitions are 48 adjudicators, six from Britain. The winner of the 'Public Speaking Award' will again represent the festival in the 'Plain English Speaking Award' competition in Australia next year. The organisers invite students, teachers, and amateur and professional writers to send in contributions for next year's festival. Student writers should include their name, age, contact telephone, name of school and address, and a declaration counter-signed by a teacher that the piece is original, unaided work. Check this year's syllabus for details and send your work (typed or printed) to the English Speech Selection Committee, HKSMSA, 7 Carmel Village Street, 2/F, Ho Man Tin, Kowloon. The deadline is January 31, 1996. For details call 2761 3877.