BSA celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year. Speaking Out asked some of those involved in the early years of the association to look back.
In the early 60's I had too severe a stammer to do anything other than manual work. My family paid for me to go every morning to a man called Henry E. Burgess who made people practice a method of teaching oneself to speak. In 1968 I took over running the classes, and when he became too old I took his method and started the "Association for Stammerers" in London. I had classes before and after work, different people ran the lessons and there was no charge. Stammerers came from all over the country, even from the Shetland Isles. We got quite a lot of publicity. I appeared on Woman's Hour, Pick of the Week and local radio and TV. We had many newspaper articles.
In 1977 Peggy Dalton, a speech therapist, came to a couple of meetings and told me she wanted to start a self-help association involving speech therapists. I suggested that I would like to go along with her. She arranged an inaugural meeting, the group was formed using the name of the "Association for Stammerers" and I was made the first chairman, which I remained for nine years.
I suppose I did rather think of it as my own organisation and it took Ron Turrell and some friends to remove me and take the association forwards to the position it is today. I was a bit sad at the time but Ron was absolutely right and proved it. I have great respect for Ron and we are good friends.
I had been invited to a meeting of people running 'support groups' for those with a wide range of speech and language difficulties. I was shocked to realise that stammering was the only one having no such country-wide focus. I knew of Sparrow's London group and contacted him about our working together. He agreed and gradually a few interested people grew into an association, with a committee to run it and arrange events.
As time went by the emphasis shifted from support for members, to a source of information for parents, teachers and the public, and the involvement of children. The quality of the magazine and the many leaflets has become very professional and I've been impressed by the way in which the telephone is answered when I call. The Association has indeed become country-wide, with events of all kinds being featured from Land's End to John o' Groats. And references to what is going on overseas are increasing.
The greatest accolade of all came with the BSA being featured as the Week's Good Cause on Radio 4. All we need now is for the Editor to appear on Desert Island Discs.
From Speaking Out Vol. I, No. 1, September 1978
I think it was back in 1978, when I was still on my postgraduate speech and language therapy training course, that Peggy Dalton asked me if I would like to help her deal with postal enquiries to the newly formed Association for Stammerers. I was very happy to help and remember struggling with an ancient typewriter and carbon paper. This was well before the age of computers - I don't even think we had Tippex!
After qualifying, I became a speech therapy advisor to the AFS and remember it as a time of many enthusiastic people working hard to ensure that the newly fledged association got off the ground. My own contribution was very small but I would like to take this opportunity to salute Peggy's crucial role. She had the vision to work with Sparrow Harrison to create a new small charity and gave an enormous amount of her time and energy to getting it started. It is fantastic to see how far it has come since then and to know how many people have been helped over the years.
Where does one start to talk about the incredible journey BSA has been through? I met Peggy Dalton in the 70's on an intensive speech therapy course at the City Lit, and subsequently started up a self-help group in Epsom, Surrey. I was soon contacted by Peggy who was interested in the idea of setting up self-help groups across the UK.
In the early days of the Association I was at various times the Secretary, Publicity officer, and Vice Chair, working alongside some wonderful people and great characters like Sparrow Harrison. I still remember the idea of a magazine being talked about and thinking how could we publish a magazine on stammering since with a few editions we would run out of ideas. How wrong was I, 30 years on it has gone from strength to strength.
In the mid 80's I could see great potential for the AFS but we needed to think bigger. AFS had achieved a lot: self-help groups, lending library, Open Days around the UK, Speaking Out, advice service etc. However, we relied totally on volunteers and so struggled to maintain the continuity of this good work. I felt we needed to have paid staff who were able to manage all these activities, and follow through the many ideas we had to help stammerers but did not have the capacity to fulfil.
This concept was not easy to push forward, and for those who can remember it was a difficult time. It was proposed that I became Chair to see through this change and Sparrow gracefully stepped down. We engaged a consultancy firm to draw up a business plan to expand the AFS by employing a director. It was a very stressful time as our limited funds were running out but at the eleventh hour we received a very large donation from BT and this started the ball rolling.
The board of trustees were split over the issue of whether or not our director must be a stammerer or not. In the end it was agreed that it should be the best person for the job, stammer or not. Looking back this was the best decision we made, as our first director Peter Cartwright steered the AFS through some very stormy waters and I doubt if we would be here today if it were not for his skills.
It all began with one of those small personal adverts in 'The Times': Association for Stammerers AGM to be held in Blackfriars Church Hall on June 14th 1986. There I met Graham Parkhouse who was on steward duty. We chatted and I agreed to go along to a meeting in the office at Farringdon. Graham's wife, Nina was the lynchpin of AFS and she really did all the work - with her typewriter! In next to no time I had agreed to become Treasurer and so became involved in the Association's development.
We decided to have our own office and came to Blackfriars Road. That lasted a few years until Ron Turrell and I interviewed and employed our first Director, Peter Cartwright. From then onwards there was a great surge in activity and we needed larger premises. Peter found St. Margaret's House and, thanks to his professional expertise, the AFS graduated to BSA and became the highly professional organisation that it is today.
David Preece and I became Joint Chairmen and, later, I took it on by myself, a position I occupied for 8 ½ years. I am very proud to have been associated with AFS/BSA for all those years and expect it will go on to even greater achievements.
From the Winter 2008 issue of 'Speaking Out', pages 14 and 15