Sarah Brown hosted a reception in honour of BSA in December 2009. Here are some accounts of members who came.
This was an important evening for us - and, I hope, it will be a significant one, because events like these create the opportunity for change. I'm sure we increased awareness and understanding of stammering - and that those to whom we talked will talk to others about their visit to No 10 and what they learned about stammering. And I hope, too, that it will have drawn attention to the ignorance and prejudice that goes on - and shown that we are all perfectly normal people who sometimes simply have a bit of difficulty in speaking fluently.
Leys Geddes, BSA Chair. You can also read Leys's speech.
It looks as though stammering is getting some really positive recognition. I was pleased to hear Ed Balls MP, Sarah Brown and BSA's Chair Leys Geddes speak about very important issues on stammering which affect us every day.
I had the chance to speak to Sarah Brown, and give her a copy of the DVD of my Channel swim last year, which has so far raised over £1000 for BSA. So maybe quite a few people at Downing Street will be having an insight into one of the UK's toughest and enlightening challenges, swimming across the English Channel. Sarah Brown was very easy to speak to and seemed to show a genuine interest in us. I felt honoured to have the chance to talk with her and let her have a copy of my DVD.
The next day when I came back from London, I gave an interview on Radio Solent about the swim and the visit to Downing Street. The story was in the local Echo too. It is good that the local media have taken such an interest.
Through the door
Like most of us, I've seen the door of No. 10, Downing Street numerous times on television news bulletins. What a surprise, though, to step beyond the entrance and discover the vastness and stunning decor of the rooms. The superb staircase, featuring portraits of former prime ministers was a real treat, as was seeing our CEO, Norbert, at the top of it, welcoming everyone to this special reception for the BSA, hosted by Sarah Brown.
It really was a memorable evening, during which speeches by Leys Geddes, BSA chair, Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Sarah Brown herself, recognised and praised the work that everyone was doing for our charity - and in particular for our Pre-School Dysfluency Campaign.
For me personally, it was a good opportunity to meet again many people who I had worked with on the BSA trustee board between 1987 and 1999 and to realise how far our charity has advanced over the years.
Between the speeches and the canapés and wine served by the very friendly No.10 staff, it was also lovely to renew acquaintances with several speech and language therapists whose expertise I have always been inspired by, either in attending courses, reading their published work, or in meeting at Open Days and conferences.
Although the evening passed so quickly, the occasion will stay in my memory always as a real bench mark in the continuing work and admired standing of the BSA.
The reception at Number 10 Downing Street was a fabulous occasion and one that I will surely never forget. Not only did I have the honour of the company of fellow guests who ranged from politicians to authors to trustees, but I also found myself at the first party I have ever attended where the fluent speakers were outnumbered. It was a novel experience indeed to be mid block strangely conscious that the people I was addressing were not under any circumstances going to attempt to finish my sentence for me, look uncomfortable or indeed start a new topic of conversation.
Also the awkwardness, embarrassment and discomfort one, as a person who stammers, usually associates with these sorts of social events just did not materialise. Stammering may have dictated the topic of most conversations and the purpose of the event, but stammering did not dictate the atmosphere and it did not dampen the great fun of the event one iota.
Seizing the opportunity
It was a reception at 10 Downing Street, hosted by Sarah Brown! Of course, there's nothing extraordinary about visiting 10 Downing Street, but it's something that doesn't happen every day - at least for me - so I was very excited about it.
It was indeed a worthwhile event. Ed Balls talked about the importance of early intervention for speech problems and it was good to see recognition and awareness of stammering being acknowledged at the top level.
I actually missed the opportunity to shake hands with Sarah Brown even though we were in the same room. I was in the queue to greet her, and was one person away to see her, when Ed Balls passed by. I turned to Mr Balls to say hi and have a word (I must say I was impressed with his patience. He stood there and let me finish my stammered words to the end and responded and interacted with me, though I could see he was in a rush). When I turned to follow up my queue to Sarah, she'd gone! Never mind. I'll have to save my personal hello to her for another time.
I also got to meet the author, David Mitchell, a stammerer himself, who wrote Black Swan Green. I had read and had really enjoyed the book and it was great to tell him so personally. The main character of the book is a school boy who also struggled with a stammer, amongst other things. A delightful book, which I recommend.
10 Downing Street -
To enter through that famous door
For more pictures, go to flickr.com/stammeringbsa
From the Spring 2010 issue of Speaking Out, pages 4 and 5.