A montage of art installations

37 Things I Carry

24th October 2022

On International Stammering Awareness Day, an immersive event in London based on a book of poems gave audiences a unique insight in what it's like to stammer. Catherine Woolley, our Programme Lead for Children & Families, went to check it out.

"My name is Audrey, and I am a person who stutters."

And so ends the first poem in Kiana Palombo's book 37 Things I Carry, which explores Audrey's relationship with her stammer, her family and herself while in conversation at a dinner party. Words almost seem to swim across the pages, floating past one another to form different shapes and patterns. Sometimes this leads to letters being separated from one another across lines or paragraphs, while at other points they swarm together, overlapping into a crowd of text. Kiana cleverly manages to create poems that not only tell you about the experience of someone who stammers, but crafts it visually on the page as well.

On the 22nd of October (International Stammering Awareness Day), Kiana held an immersive experience in London to give people the chance to step into these poems for themselves. From the outside, the building, situated next to a barber's and hand car wash, appeared unassuming. Once inside however, it told a different story. The venue had a deliberately disheveled air, giving you the chance to see through walls, ceilings and floorboards to the foundations that lay beneath. The building seemed to echo Kiana's poetry, stripping back the surface to what sat underneath. Around the venue, each of the 37 poems within the book were represented through a range of mediums, giving the chance to explore each one at our own pace and its own way.

An art exhibit showing cut out pieces of text on a wall

The event included choregraphed reading performances by actors from East 15 Acting School as well as soundscapes and moving image artwork. Throughout the event ran a string of red thread, linking and connecting them all together even to the book itself, which featured a slice of red snaking across the cover. 

Depicting stammering through the arts is not something new, but time and again we have seen people who stammer misrepresented or misunderstood for an easy laugh or sob story. As Kiana herself said, "Growing up with a stammer, I found that the narratives I wanted did not exist. Therefore, I needed to create them for myself and, by extension, for other people." Her work joins that of other talented artists and creators who stammer such as Paul Aston and JJJJJerome Ellis. Art can be a powerful space to challenge prejudice and initiate conversation with others. It is time for people who stammer to be able to take centre stage in crafting their own narratives and celebrating the beauty of stammering. And I cannot wait to learn what stories they have to tell.  

An art exhibit showing a chair next to a wall that has a sheet of paper with writing on it.
Two women in running outfits holding flags and looking at the camera
Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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