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Dreams, here I come

Andrew Harding | 01.02.2002

Gareth Gates worked his way from being one of 10,000 contestants to one of two on February 9 when he came a close second to Will Young in the phone-in poll.

Gareth, 17, took one of the best second prizes in the music business - a recording contract with a major company - and will be releasing a single in the next few weeks, followed by an album.

Gareth quickly became front page news as he rose to fame on a recent wave of publicity, which guaranteed both him and his stammering national exposure.

In the ultimate desensitisation test, he had to talk live on national TV week after week as the country watched him use the speech technique learned on the McGuire Programme.

Shortly before the final of Pop Idol he said: "All my life I've asked 'why, why me who stammers'. However, the important thing is, don't ever let anything stand in the way of your dreams."

the important thing is, don't ever let anything stand in the way of your dreams

But the pressures of appearing in Pop Idol each week took their toll on his speech, allowing him little time to practice. He often used the breathing technique, sometimes with better results than others. Some people unfairly accused Gareth of 'putting on' his stammer to get a sympathy vote.

In the last week of the five-month leadup to the final, Gareth's speech coach was at his side to help him practice for interviews and to answer phone calls.

"The media appearances have made me stronger and I have done more than I thought I would be able to do. This has helped me so much," he said.

Gareth once made a joke of his stammer backstage at the end of a show. When asked to sum up his feelings in three words, no words came out. He hesitated, laughed in frustration and said: "It's only three words".

Gareth's training as a choirboy, pianist and classical guitarist prepared him well for the disciplines of popstar-dom, and people describe him as very grounded.

At the start of the competition Gareth said: "I have a desire to perform and I feel that's what I am best at. I have a dream. Part of my dream is to help those less fortunate than myself."

For Pop Idol finalist Gareth Gates, having a stammer was good for publicity, but he had no doubts that it was his singing that took him almost to the top of the ITV talent show.

Gareth's courage in the face of his stammering is an example of what can be achieved by not letting stammering get in the way of living. He has become a great role model for other young people who can see that 'it's not just me who stammers'.

Although clearly disappointed after coming second, he will soon be releasing a record and starting his own recording career. He also has an offer to study singing at a leading music college.

One of the Pop Idol highlights for Gareth was a show in Dublin. Coming offstage he said: "Its just unbelievable - I love it, I just love it".

The final 10 contestants are performing at Wembley Area in London from March 14 to 16, and at the Sheffield Arena on March 21 and 22.

From the Winter/Spring 2002 edition of Speaking Out