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And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

Posts Tagged ‘Stammering

Speaking Up

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Hello you lovely lot. Hope 2013 is treating you well so far. We got through our little snow dramas, so onwards and upwards.

For the next few months I am doing a few posts on speech and speaking. As some of you know I am a lifelong stammerer. It makes my life more of a challenge, but then again, no one said life was ever going to be easy.

I have always been slightly in awe of people who can and do use their voices for a living. I wanted to know what the secret was. How do you tame and control your speech like that?

So I have been in touch with a few people who make their livings from their voices.

The first one, which will be along shortly, was comedian Dave Twentyman.



Written by Nick Gilmartin

January 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Speech

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The King’s Speech Review

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On the back of my last article I was delighted to receive, out of the blue, two tickets to see the Kings Speech, courtesy of Showcase Cinemas and their delightful PR, Katie McDermott.

Showcase Coventry is a nicely appointed cinema on a retail and leisure park outside the city. We were issued with our tickets within a minute of our arrival and the staff were all very helpful.

The film opened with the King, then Duke of York, about to deliver a speech at the great exhibition of 1936. For him it was a trial. For his audience, awkward. I felt for the guy like no one else in the auditorium. My knuckles whitened, my jaw clenched, my guts twisted in sympathy. It really was that bad.

Colin Firth played the part well. Not just the stammer, but also the fear, the anxiety, the flashes of frustration and temper. The dialogue reflected our vocabulary and even our sense of humour. Stammerers don’t tell long jokes, we tell wise-cracks, one liners and quick come-backs.

The rest of the cast also performed extremely well. Helena Bonham-Carter was perfect as the endlessly patient and supportive Duchess of York (who my generation knew only as the Queen Mother). In parts you can see her heart virtually breaks for her husband who tries so hard against the odds. My own partner, Claire, often faces the same challenges she did. She shared the Duchess’s anger at the world’s treatment of him, and a special pride at his eventual achievements.

Timothy Spall took the role of Churchill with both hands, a part I sense he enjoyed immensely. Churchill also had a stammer in earlier life, and throughout the war years and beyond he and the king remained firm friends.

Guy Pierce continues to excel in new and diverse parts. He played the role of brother David (King Edward VIII and later the Duke of Windsor) with some zeal. It is fair to say that brother David does not come out of this episode looking particularly heroic. We see him bully his younger brother and mocking him childishly.

Childish mocking is something we grew used to, to an extent. We learn to swallow the anger, and smile. That cold feeling in the pit of your stomach will pass in a minute, just let it go. Or so I would tell myself.

But I think the star of the show was Geoffrey Rush, who plays the King’s unconventional Speech Therapist Lionel Logue. Many dismissed Logue as a quack, a crank, and a fake. He was nothing of the sort, of course, just unconventional. Logue is one of the many unsung heroes of the 1930s and 1940s and deserves a little recognition. He was an actor sometimes, and the forerunner of the modern voice coach. He threw away the rulebook and developed his own techniques in speech therapy, many of which are common practice today.

The story continues throughout Logue’s sometimes bizarre treatment of the Duke. They share an informal relationship that sometimes has flare-ups of anger and frustration. There were many scenes of outstanding humour and the comic timing of the pair is a joy to watch.

It climaxes in the Duke’s succession to the throne following the abdication crisis. The challenges his Majesty faces are many. He must now grasp the role of King for which he was never trained and feels ill-suited. Furthermore his country was about to plunge headlong into world war. The final scenes are the King’s rousing address to his nation, galvanizing them to fight, to risk and to endure. Fantastic stuff.

In all, a film I heartily recommend, as it blends drama and humour so effortlessly. The cast are magnificent and I am sure it will sweep the board come Oscar time.

For more information on Stammering please click this link

Written by Nick Gilmartin

January 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm

The King’s Speech and I

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There are many things that come naturally to me, for example mixing flavours and anticpating customer needs.  Some things don’t, and sadly public speaking is one of them.  So I would have to be a total lunatic to suggest that I speak live on radio about not being able to speak.  But why?

Coming soon to a cinema near you, and an Oscar favourite to boot, is a film called the King’s Speech.  Colin Firth portrays King George VI, a rather shy fellow who was suddenly pushed on to the throne after his brother abdicates.  Traumatic enough in itself, his problems were compounded by the fact that he had a severe stammer.   The film has proved a major talking point in the US, with debates online and on radio.

Adrian Goldberg, bloody nice bloke.

I knew instantly it should be worthy of some attention in dear old Blighty too so I fired off an e-mail to the main man at BBC Radio West MidlandsAdrian Goldberg is a fellow I had been in correspondence with for a while but never actually met.  I wrote a few pieces for his website, the Stirrer, last year.

My day got off to an expensive start when I filled my tank with as much petrol as I could afford.  To put it in perspective, if it were beer to drink, I would still be under the legal limit.  My sat nav is never happier than when I take it to Birmingham.  It suddenly turns into some kind of Sergeant Major.  “Left, right, left, right, left… HALT!”

BBC West Midlands is a rather swanky place, part studio, part shop and part exhibition center, very people friendly.  Except on New Years Day it was all shut except for the studio.  Through a glass partition I could see the back of a man’s head as he spoke into the microphone.  The studio PA came out to tell me that I had a few minutes yet so I waited.

Preparing for a radio speech took George IV hours, he went through breathing techniques, relaxation and allsorts.  I had a can of red bull on my way in and hoped for the best.  I took this opportunity, though, to pace up and down, breathing like a sex pest, trying desperately to get my heart rate down.  But the more I tried, the more I felt a coranary coming on.  I recited my quotes to a model Dalek, until I noticed people staring in the window at me.  Carry on people, nothing to see here.

After a few minutes I was called in, during the commercials, and introduced to Adrian.  He seemed, indeed is, a nice sort of fellow.

“Ah Nick, come in,” he said “We are very interested to hear about you and how you cured your stutter.”

Hang on.. cured?

“I haven’t, I still have it.”  I replied, in perfectly clear speech.  Which would confuse some people.

“Okay, no problem.”  Adrian replied, the corner of his eye registering the smallest flicker of concern.  He had never actually heard me speak before, so this was a bit of a gamble for him.

So off we went, Adrian led the conversation then gave me ample time to answer, he didn’t interrupt or try to finish my words off, which is the worst thing you can do to a stammerer.  We discussed the film, which admittedly neither of us had seen yet.  We discussed people’s attitudes to stammering, which are generally reasonable, and occasionally rather bad.

We got on to the various therapies available, the best available being the Maguire programme and the Starfish project.  A short phone-in followed.  A chap was on the line who coped admirably well with a stammer for years while holding down a stable job as a journalist.  To me, this boded well for my future aspirations.

We discussed my treatment, which in truth amounted to very little.  After years in and out of therapy I decided to just live with it.  But, and this is paramount, I must learn not to fear it.  The Maguire programme had a stage involving public speaking.  However, without knowing it I had gone one better.

Way back in 1998 I went off along to Greece on a bit of a tour of self discovery.  To find work I had made myself walk into every bar, club and restaurant in Malia and sell my abilities.  It was hard, nerve-wracking, and, yes, often humiliating.  But after dozens of no’s I finally found a little bar on the top of a hill, and the barman said ” Yeah, alright.”  This piratical looking individual, Manos, became a long time friend of mine.  I digress.

The whole interview took about ten or fifteen minutes and, I later learned, had a very positive response.  It also got a plug or three for my blog, Birmingham Food and Drink.  (Cheers for that, Adrian)

So I hope all of this helped my fellow stammerers.  If any of you out there wish to contact me about the interview, my contact address is here.

In all, an unusually productive New Years morning.

To learn more about stammering and it’s affects, please check out: