I was invited to attend the Stammerers Network Event on Monday 17th October 2016, to be held at Speaker’s House within the Houses of Parliament.
I left school at lunchtime so that I could travel to London by train and tube with my Dad. We arrived at Marylebone Station and headed into the underground to get to the Embankment station and then walked along the river to our entry point of Portcullis House. As we were a little early we looked around at some of the sights - the statue of Boudicca and St Stephen's Tower which houses the bell Big Ben.
We came back to Portcullis House and went through the security checks - my dad even had to take off his belt to go through! Once we had all got together in the waiting area, a guide came and took us under the road into the Houses of Parliament complex. We entered Speaker’s House and collected our name badges. We were then given time to look around at all the paintings of previous Speakers and the things they have been given by visiting diplomats that were on display. The paintings varied in style as they covered the many years and various Speakers that have had this role over time. The items that had been given to various Speakers were varied, from part of a stalactite from Gibraltar that had been engraved, to a beaded wand from an African country. Also on display were historical artifacts, one of which was the “Key of Guy Fawkes” that was so long it had a hinge in the middle of the shaft.
Mr Speaker, John Bercow, was introduced and gave a welcome speech. He then introduced the first guest speaker, Mr Ed Balls, who apologised for his poor state of dress as he had just come from a 6 hour practice for his next dance in Strictly Come Dancing. He talked about some of the difficulties he had faced in his career as a politician and how he overcame these and found strength to write his book ‘Speaking Out : Lessons in Life and Politics’.
The next guest speaker George Freeman, Conservative MP and advisor to the PM, also a stammerer went on to talk about how he had apologised to Ed Balls after heckling him in the Commons and realising that he was a fellow stammerer. He shared some of his experiences and those of his son in their work with the Michael Palin Institute to help with developing strategies to assist in overcoming their stammers. He reiterated what Ed had said in that stammering is a lifelong affliction, but it can go into ‘remission’.
There were then members of the public who gave some experiences of their life with stammering so far. One was a young man of around 18 and another was a boy of about my age. A man who works in the civil service gave his experiences of how his stammer affected his ability to achieve promotions as he could not always communicate clearly. He now works promoting understanding of stammering with employers. The final speaker was a lady who having lived for many years with her stammer decided to get help whilst in her 50’s. She had hidden her stammer for years and had developed many ways to do so.
After the speeches Mr Speaker invited us to mingle and tour his residence further. In this time I spoke to various people, including the Chief Executive Officer of the British Stammering Association who had invited me to the event. I also spoke with Ed Balls and George Freeman. They were very impressed with the support and encouragement that my school gives its pupils to achieve their best in all their endeavours. We finally started to make our way home just before 9pm (an hour after the event was due to finish!) exhausted from the experienced, but very happy with how well I had managed to communicate with these much older people who all had the same disability as me.