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My STAMMAFest Global 2022

Abi, Hanan, Tash and Mikey share their experiences of STAMMAFest Global, our conference in 2022.

*Tickets for the next STAMMAFest (15th-18th August 2024) are on sale now!

Abi:

I didn't know what to expect from STAMMAFest Global — it being my first stammering conference — and I was bowled over by the care, bravery and compassion that went into the event. The accommodation was really comfortable and the Saturday social was such a nice way to meet new people, connect and relax with some fantastic music and food.

It was a huge honour to play my own small part in the conference, sharing my research into stammering and singing lessons. I enjoyed presenting my work to people; my research is straying into new territory and I wasn't sure how interested people would be, but the audience were so kind and welcoming that it has given me real encouragement to press on with my work.

I am sure the impact of STAMMAFest 2022 into the wider community will be felt for years to come. 

Abi

From a personal note, something I wasn't expecting was the opportunity to reflect on my own voice. I have since reflected on my journey from receiving speech and language therapy when I was a child, to being a singer now, and working with many other voices. It has given me inspiration to embrace the whole of my voice — singing and speaking.

I am sure the impact of STAMMAFest 2022 into the wider community will be felt for years to come. 

Thank you STAMMAFest.

Hanan:

Conferences on stammering are like oxygen for me. They are truly necessary in my journey to recover from the various traumas that I experienced before I found out that it was, in fact OK to stammer. 

Conferences bring me community and remind me that I am not alone, and with each one I break down a bit more of the defences I had built up over the years to try and isolate myself from what I perceived as a terrifying world. I learn more about how I can change my own self-limiting thoughts and beliefs about myself. The result is that the conferences give me energy, joy, and a will to help others to find theirs.

It had been three years since I had a decent dose of my oxygen, and STAMMAFest Global exceeded my hopes and expectations. At STAMMAFest I felt better than I had for years. It also got me thinking more about the stigma of stuttering and its effect on us, and, on the other hand, about the beauty in stammering.

At STAMMAFest I felt better than I had for years. 

Hanan

It seems completely obvious now, but the phenomenal panel on the 'Is There Beauty in Stammering?' plenary helped me understand that of course there is beauty in stammering. We only ask the question and doubt the beauty because the stigma of stuttering is so ingrained in us to view stammering as a defect, and viewing ourselves as defective. Many people I know, myself included, for ages avoided meeting other people who stammer because we feared seeing that thing that we hated the most, that we felt ashamed about. Many of you perhaps know this 'mirror effect'.

Let's get this out of the way: beauty is not something superficial. 

Beauty can be found in a precious conversation, such as those I was so fortunate to have with Owen Sheers and Hanna Tovey, and many others. Beauty is connection, connection that is enhanced while actively listening and waiting for someone to express their thought. Beauty is that person sharing their thought with us. Beauty is in the intimacy of that true connection where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic. During all those years that I spent avoiding meeting other people who stammer I denied myself opportunities to experience beauty.

Regarding the stigma of stuttering, it's so pervasive that even when campaigning that it's ok to stutter we feel compelled to qualify it by a statement that we have a right to choose to not seek therapy, as if therapy would 'cure' us if only we wanted fluency enough or we worked hard enough at it. So let's say load and clear: It's ok to stammer, we have a right to stammer, and let's continue enjoying the amazing beauty the comes from those true conversations.

Tash:

Tash sent in this vlog post all about her first STAMMAFest experience:

I encourage anyone with a stammer to come to the next one 100%.

Mikey:

Oh my days! Where do you start with the incredible adventure that was STAMMAFest Global 2022? 

One of the plenary talks was asking if there beauty in stammering. I personally believe there's a beauty in anything and everything. I saw and felt that beauty many, many times over the five days. The beauty of hugging old friends and shaking hands with new ones. The beauty in the patience of the listener and in the speaker regardless of fluency. The sheer beauty of celebrating yourself and your speech at the open mic sessions. The beauty of making someone laugh or wishing someone a safe journey home without ever knowing their name. The beauty of constant chattering at mealtimes and welcoming strangers onto your table. The beauty of lighting a candle for my parents in Liverpool Cathedral. The beauty of raising a glass to those we would never see again at a conference — those members who passed away recently. Our hearts felt them at communal times, in workshops and on the dancefloor. They didn't forget us down here either with glorious sunshine all conference long.

...everything I heard and the feelings the conference raised always take a few days to sink in. Feelings of inner pride for myself and the fellow people who stammer I spoke with. 

Mikey

For me on a personal level it was the beauty of celebrating my 10th conference since my first in 2004. Being a so-called conference veteran, I know every conference is different. Some souls you will see again, some never again but I try to remember as many as possible. How could I forget them when they were part of that conference experience for me that year? 

This year I want to thank everyone who spoke to me, be it a quick hello or a question. Thank you to the people who danced with me on Saturday night — I want to thank the lads who put balloons on me on the dancefloor. Thanks to the group I did a walk of shame with in the early hours of Saturday morning. Thank you to my quiz team of Eagles who soared to second place and sent me up to collect our prize. To the many souls I didn't get to speak to. To the speakers of the plenary sessions and workshops I went to, thank you for the effort, information and life experiences you conveyed.

Now it's over, there is the beauty of telling others how the conference went. In the days afterwards, the beauty of that quiet victory of a telephone call made or of asking for a bus or train ticket irrespective of fluency. There is the beauty of reflection — everything I heard and the feelings the conference raised always take a few days to sink in. Feelings of inner pride for myself and the fellow people who stammer I spoke with. 

So when you think about it and looked around, there really was so much beauty in not only stammering, but throughout STAMMAFest Global 2022.

Now our work continues. We carry on raising awareness, we find our voices in our daily lives wherever that takes us. We right any wrongs done to our community, we promote the upcoming International Stammering Awareness Day (on the 22nd October) in our own ways. We carry on supporting each other and await news of the next STAMMA conference.  

Our work continues because our song continues…

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Two women in running outfits holding flags and looking at the camera
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Tayo & Bhupinder
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A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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