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Talking to cinema audiences

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I arranged with The Broadway Cinema, Nottingham to do two short presentations before daytime showings of the film to raise some awareness of stammering with audiences.

This idea snowballed, though. The BSA press release was passed to the 'Post', our local paper, and an interview followed. On publication, ITV Central asked for a recorded interview with my wife, Joyce and I on how we had both coped with my stammer. All this was preceded by a live interview on BBC Radio Nottingham, involving Joyce, our SLT Carolyn Desforges and I.

I knew that my speech was better now than it ever has been, due to therapy and a gradual improvement, so I wasn't afraid to get involved with these different types of media and speak out. The radio interview was positive, lasting around twenty-five minutes and the studio received several calls, emails and texts whilst we were on air.

I was almost thrown out of my stride on discovering that Screen 1 at the cinema was full to capacity - due to local and national publicity on the film - and I had to stand on stage under a bright spotlight to deliver my presentation. (Usually it would be half-full in the daytime and introductions are done from the front seats). Fortunately - using slow prolonged speech technique - my stammer was in check and I received encouraging applause and warm comments from the patrons in the foyer afterwards. The afternoon attendance meant that all four screens were filled to capacity - a record for the cinema.

The ITV interview was screened across the Midlands that evening and was given the thumbs-up by several old friends, neighbours and two former members of our self help group, who may now rejoin.

A tiring, but very worthwhile few days.

David Preece, Nottingham

Giving a voice when speech doesn't run so smoothly

FOR as long as he can remember David Preece has stammered.

At school he was forbidden from performing in a play, while at work he was pulled into his manager's office after refusing to make phone calls.

image placeholderThe 70-year-old even admits he has crossed the road to avoid chatting with neighbours.

But when Mr Preece went to speech therapy during his 40s, his life suddenly changed.

"Until I went into therapy my speech was getting worse to the point that I was getting really isolated in society and I found that I was becoming a burden to my wife," he said.

"I was getting really uptight about my speech and went through periods where I wouldn't speak at all.

"Then in the late 80s, I went to a speech therapist for the first time and was taught a technique called slow prolonged speech and it worked for me and it was improving my confidence and for the first time I was able to open up and talk to other people about it."

Although Mr Preece, of Highbury Avenue, Bulwell, still stammers, he has learned to control it.

The speech defect which consists of involuntary repetitions and prolongations of sounds, syllables, words or phrases, and involuntary silent pauses is also referred to as stuttering, although this term refers mainly to involuntary sound repetition.

Famous people to suffer from the condition include King George VI, singer Gareth Gates, Marilyn Monroe and Bruce Willis.

Mr Preece now runs the Nottingham Self Help Group For People Who Stammer.

The group was one of 300 charities which received a share of £35,000 in the Post's Cash For Your Community campaign earlier this year.

With the money they received, the group are staging their first open day since 1993, which will tie in with International Stammering Awareness Day on Saturday, October 22.

The event at County Hall will include speakers, workshops and a chance for people with a stammer to meet others.

Mr Preece, who used to work as a book buyer for libraries, said it was about inspiring confidence as well as giving information.

"We want to raise awareness about stammering and the fact that it is being held on International Stammering Awareness Day means that people from all over the globe will be involved," he said.

"We want people to come along to find out what support is available and to meet other people who stammer to exchange experiences and coping strategies."

Family and friends are also welcome to the event to learn more.

After seeing the transformation in Mr Preece, his wife Joyce, 68, said getting help was extremely important.

"It never bothered me that he had a stammer but it was certainly holding David back," she said.

"He's much better now and I get to take a break from answering the phone so it's great. It's just a shame it took him until he was in his 40s. But now there's no stopping him."

The open day in October will also aim to raise awareness about proposed cuts to speech and language therapy and support.

Group member Richard Seals, from Gedling is supporting the Royal College Of Speech And Language Therapists' Giving Voice campaign.

The 38-year-old, who has stammered since the age of about five, has had therapy at various stages in his life.

"It [the stammer] is always there but sometimes it just gets too much and I have the therapy to get back on track," he said. "Now being involved in this group I don't think I'll ever have to go back because I know what I need to do.

"If I hadn't have had the help, I think I would have just got worse and worse."

As part of the campaign, Mr Seals will travel to Parliament for a rally on Tuesday, October 18 to protest against the proposed cuts.

He will also attend the open day in October.

He added: "I think it's just good to be in a place where everyone knows what you are feeling and who have been through the same things."


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