Apart from welcoming you all here this afternoon and saying how really grateful I am that you’ve all taken such an interest in this particular cause, I really did want to express my special thanks to Gerald and Dame Gail Ronson for their tremendous efforts in mounting the Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood Appeal along with so many other things that are worthwhile in this country, also obviously to Michael Palin for his unflagging support of the Charity since its launch; and the Secretary of State, Ed Balls, for his huge commitment to the cause; after all he made me an offer I couldn’t possibly refuse last year to which I was very glad to be able to agree.
I am so pleased to be Patron of this Appeal particularly in memory of my Grandfather, King George VI, who as many of you will know, was afflicted with a stammer for many years. His stammer cut him off I think in so many ways from his parents and his brothers and sisters and drove him into himself as I suspect so many stammerers will understand. Above all he experienced that awful fear of feeling different from others. But, fortunately, my Grandfather found a remarkable Australian called Lionel Logue and his objective was to convince the patient that stammerers were entirely normal people with a perfectly normal complaint. Now of course as most of you know a film has been made and I think produced by somebody in this room, which is called The King’s Speech, which has Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter playing the parts of my Grandfather and my Grandmother so it will be very interesting to see how it is treated. Of course my Grandfather was fortunate enough to receive speech therapy services which enabled him to overcome the condition. However, there are many individuals who still do not have access to these essential services.
I have had the pleasure of talking to so many of you here today and hearing about your experiences with stammering whether as a parent, sibling, teacher, researcher, therapist or indeed as a person who has experienced stammering first-hand. It did strike me just how vulnerable and alone one must feel when the ability to communicate is inhibited. Those of you who know and as therapists will confirm that it is so much easier to treat a child at a young age than when they get older. So we know what the real challenges are, that relationships and career opportunities may be severely affected and of course many suffer from anxiety and depression.
I was, however, enormously encouraged to learn of the experiences of some remarkable people here today who, in the face of tremendous obstacles, have overcome their stammer through the help of the Michael Palin Centre.
What the Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood has achieved, in partnership with Islington Primary Care Trust, has made a very real difference to many lives – since the Michael Palin Centre opened in 1993, over 3,500 children have benefitted from their specialist help, enabling them to experience the benefit and enjoyment of uninhibited communication.
However, rather alarmingly, 75-80 per cent of children in the UK who stammer are still not receiving the therapy they need. It does seem to me, Ladies and Gentlemen, that it is therefore immensely important that the Association has all the support they need to expand their provision of services so that they are able to reach many more children. I need hardly add that the funds raised by this Appeal will also make a substantial impact to research, teaching and education in this vital area.
Many of you here today are I know involved in helping all sorts of other causes so your generosity ladies and gentlemen and support towards this particular cause is deeply appreciated and will make a dramatic difference to people’s lives and opportunities not only in London but also in the North of England so thank you more than I can possibly say.