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Report on the 2018 World Congress, Hiroshima, Japan

| 07.08.2018

Iain Wilkie, founder of the Employers Stammering Network (ESN), reports on BSA's contribution to the 2018 World Congress, held in Hiroshima, Japan. 

With over 600 delegates from 30 different countries, July’s Inaugural Joint World Congress on stammering and cluttering, held in Hiroshima, Japan, certainly lived up to its billing as a major event in the stammering calendar. The theme 'One World, Many Voices' was evidenced in the rich diversity of speakers, delegates and content.

Expertly Chaired by Elaine Kelman from the Michael Palin Centre (MPC) and seamlessly organised by the UK’s Kirsten Howells and Jenny Packer, the delegates included many leaders from the world of stammering and cluttering. An especially warm welcome was received from the local hosts the Japan Stuttering Genyukai Organisation.

On behalf of the BSA, I gave a main stage presentation about the work and impact of the Employers Stammering Network (ESN) since it was founded five years ago. The title of my talk was 'Redefining Stammering at Work', reflecting how the ESN has been working successfully to create a more accepting culture towards stammering in the workplace. With 30 million people who stammer of employment age in the world, it aligned perfectly with the conference's theme. For me personally, this was one of the most important speeches of my life. 

The presentation, which was very warmly received, was co-developed with Sam Simpson, a leading Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) who works closely with the ESN. The value of the ongoing collaboration between people who stammer, SLTs and employers, resulting for example in the ESN’s unique support networks, accredited workshops and pilot mentoring programme, was highlighted as a key driver in helping people who stammer to fulfil our potential at work.

Other Congress highlights

The four-day Congress also included popular presentations from other UK delegates including Rachel Everard and Carolyn Cheasman from City Lit, Elaine Kelman, Ali Berquez and Kevin Fower from MPC, and Claire Norman from the Stammerers Through University Consultancy (STUC). In all, around 90 talks were given during the Congress plus numerous break-out meetings and gatherings.

Of course, it wasn’t all work and the evening entertainments included lively displays of drumming by a local high school group, traditional Japanese dancing and colourful dragon-slaying performances.

Further Congress highlights included meeting numerous bright and engaging people from across the global stammering and cluttering community. There was a real sense that progress is being made in multiple areas ranging from genetic sequencing to stronger communities and life fulfilment. There were also showings of 'When I Stutter', an excellent award-winning US documentary which will be shown in the UK this autumn at the City Lit (you can watch the trailer at www.vimeo.com/150137350).

The Congress was held in the International Conference Center, located in the beautiful Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The park was created in honour of the 210,000 people killed by the first atomic bomb in August 1945. During our time there, it was impossible not to feel the spirit of the people of Hiroshima who, having suffered terribly from the devastation caused by the atomic bomb, now campaign tirelessly for world peace: 'One World, Many Voices' indeed. 

You can listen to a series of podcasts recorded at the 2018 World Congress from the StutterTalk website here: http://stuttertalk.com/tag/2018-world-congress/