Jane Powell talks about our first campaign as STAMMA, in June 2019.
"When I was younger a simple phone call crushed me for months. It was with a family member who wasn’t expecting me to call and my stutter was REALLY bad at the start of the call. They didn’t realise it was me and I couldn’t get my words out to explain so I just had to pass the phone over. For a good few months my confidence was crushed and for years after that I would avoid making phone calls. Even to this day, they’re always my last choice." Scroobius Pip, actor, rapper, podcaster & BSA Patron
Prior to taking up post as the CEO at STAMMA, the British Stammering Association, I was discussing the opportunity with a friend, who made a joke about stammering. Hearing that joke transformed the job opportunity for me. I wanted this job more than anything. The need to change such attitudes seemed to me to be absolute, and what a brilliant opportunity to make a difference.
In the 1970s a blind man falling down a hole or walking into a wall was acceptable comedy. After I took up the post, I got a text from a former colleague saying "C-c-c-congratulations".
It's time we put this one to bed, time to ensure that stammering is understood and treated as a serious issue.
I Stammer was our first public campaign aimed at changing public attitudes.
The thrust of the campaign was to give the public an insight into what it means to stammer, dispel stereotypes and encourage people to take stammering seriously. Our ads went up on bus stops and outdoor media spaces. The words and the STAMMA logo visibly stammer and are hard to read. Within this text are messages from our members about what it means to stammer. The campaign is visually bold and upbeat.
Alongside this campaign we generated discussion on social media using the hashtag #STAMMA and asked people to post pictures of the ads in 'the wild'. We also wanted to build understanding and awareness.
Thanks to members completing our online surveys, we briefed the media and helped them understand the issues facing those who stammer: the assumptions that you stammer because you're nervous, unsure, drunk, have a learning disability or, appallingly, you stammer because you are lying. Frankly, it's been hard reading through the surveys completed by young people who've given up chasing their dream careers and feel thwarted in education, work and love.
Our Patrons were happy to lend their voices too:
"Too many people still dismiss stammerers as faulty human beings. Too many people still equate disfluency with a shortage of will-power (good God, if only they knew!). Too many people still think of stammering as a comic vein. Too many kids who stammer see doors slamming in their faces or, worse, are afraid to try the door-handles." David Mitchell, writer, Patron
"My stammer is very unpredictable and has caused me much anxiety over the years. I don't like the telephone, I dread live radio and sometimes I even dread asking for a railway ticket. Most of the time I am very fluent and am not bad at public speaking, but then, out of nowhere, a sudden block - it's not funny when it happens." Dame Margaret Drabble, writer & Patron
"When I was an MP my colleagues in Parliament and the media sometimes mistook my stammer for nerves or a lack of conviction. It was very frustrating but I learned that to be open about my stammer took the pressure off me and helped them understand. I hope this campaign will help many more people understand what a stammer is all about, so that more people who stammer are able to make the most of their talent and potential." Ed Balls, Patron
"I'm proud to support the BSA's I Stammer campaign to diminish this ignorance, and I look forward to a day when stammering carries no greater stigma than being left-handed." David Mitchell, writer & Patron
If you're new to STAMMA, then welcome. I hope you'll become a member and join us in breaking the poisonous notions that surround stammering.
Jane Powell, CEO, June 2019