Giving Voice

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

International Women's Day

Being in a profession consisting of more women than men, I felt inspired to write a post on International Women’s Day. I don’t know why it is that there are more women than men train for Speech and Language Therapy but it’s definitely a profession with more females! (But I do know some brilliant male SLTs too!)
I work, and have worked with, many inspirational Speech and Language Therapists who are dedicated to making a difference to the lives of the people they work with. Whether it’s helping children to say their first words, use their speech sounds correctly or to make more sense of the world around them… and that’s just the children we’ve seen before lunch!
There are so many women who have inspired me throughout my entire life, before and during my career as a Speech and Language Therapist - and men too but today is International Women’s day so we don’t need to talk about the men today! ;)  
I love quotes and I have many favourites. My love of quotes also reminds me how important language is to be able to understand others and express ourselves and to find our place in the world. I feel so privileged to be part of a profession that offers support and intervention to people struggling to develop effective communication skills (or regain these skills if they’ve been lost).
I thought I’d share some of my favourite quotes (so hard to choose only a few!)
-          If you think you are too small to make an impact, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room – Dame Anita Roddick (I love this one and use it whenever I am talking to people about campaigning)
-          The question isn’t who’s going to let me. It’s who’s going to stop me – Ayn Rand
-          No one can make you feel inferior without your consent – Eleanor Roosevelt
-          If you don’t like something change it, if you can’t change it, change your attitude – Maya Angelou
-          Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve – J.K.Rowling
Some of the most inspirational women in my life are those the closest to me. My mam, my sister and my grandma have all played a huge role in my life. My grandma always used to say ‘You’ve got to laugh or else you’ll cry’ and this gets me through many situations (sometimes daily!) I know I am a better person because she was in my life. All of my family (and friends) are so supportive of me and everything I do and I feel so blessed each and every day.
My sister Joanne, mam and grandma with a cool little Julie!
Thanks for reading. Be proud of who you are <3
Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Laughter with a Lord

Thanks to everyone who has read, shared and re-tweeted my blog in the last 24 hours! It's been great to see that a number of the MPs who were at Voice Box last week have retweeted it. Gary Northfield, one of the judges (and children's author and illustrator) also retweeted it to his followers.
Today I got some official photos from RCSLT and I thought it would be nice to share some of them here as an additional post.
Tomorrow morning, Chris Dyson Head Teacher and TJ are going to be on BBC Radio Leeds between 8.15 and 8.30am and on BBC Look North after 6pm. I look forward to listening and watching!
Richard Burgon, Leeds East MP, Chris Dyson and TJ
Photo Credit: Geoff Wilson

Richard Burgon, MP with Abigail from Seacroft Grange
Photo credit: Geoff Wilson
TJ telling his winning joke (complete with potato prop!) with Nick Smith, MP
Photo Credit: Geoff Wilson

 Gary Northfield and TJ with his certificate
Photo Credit: Geoff Wilson

Kamini Gadhok, CEO of RCSLT with Lord Quirk
Photo Credit: Geoff Wilson

Lord Quirk pictured above was President of RCSLT between 1987 and 1991. In addition to this, in the late 1960s/early 1970s he chaired a committee of enquiry into speech therapy services (which fundamentally changed the profession!)
I have enjoyed being involved in Voice Box so much. I think it is a fantastic idea and I know that all the children have enjoyed it too. I look forward to getting involved again next time round. It's a great way to promote the communication skills and confidence of young people in a fun way.
Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives. To read more about the Voice Box final in London last week see here. Thanks for reading and thank you to RCSLT for providing the photos I've shared in this blog post! I'm sure you'll agree they are fantastic! :)

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Raising the Roof at Speaker's House

I travelled to London for the Voice Box final on Wednesday. I arrived a little early at Portcullis House so had a little walk along the Thames to take a few photos. Anyone that knows me knows I can never have too many photos of Big Ben or the London Eye! After brief sightseeing I joined the queue to get into Portcullis House. Once through security I was greeted with a buzz of enthusiasm and excitement from all the children waiting to go to Speaker’s House for the competition (and indeed the adults in the room too!)


Portcullis House, London

Voice Box was organised by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and The Communication Trust. I had the pleasure of meeting the Director of The Communication Trust (Octavia Holland)on our way from Portcullis House to Speaker's House.

I was particularly excited that two of the Leeds schools had made it to the national final and chatted with both finalists while we were waiting. Both children from Leeds were particularly excited for their first trip to London and couldn’t wait to tell their jokes! My niece took Voice Box to her school last term too and the winner from there also attended so I introduced myself to him and his guests too :)                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
The event was officially hosted by Mr Speaker, John Bercow MP and it was held in Speaker’s House. It was an honour to be invited and have lunch with all the competitors and their families/teachers/SLTs before listening to all the jokes.
Richard Burgon MP for Leeds East attended for part of the event and was able to chat with both the Leeds children before they told their jokes. I was really pleased that he was able to attend and it was brilliant that he was able to see it through to the end after having been the judge at both of our Leeds events.  You can read more about the Parklands Voice Box and the Leeds final here.
After lunch we took to our seats for the competition to begin. Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent was the Master of Ceremonies. Nick was RCSLT’s Director of Policy and Partnerships between 2006 and 2010. He kept the event running smoothly including a few jokes of his own. I had the pleasure of meeting Nick at the 2011 Giving Voice awards but unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to speak to him on Wednesday.
Nick Smith MP, me and Sharon Hodgson MP at the Giving Voice Awards 2011
Eleven other MPs attended and some of them got up and told jokes alongside their constituent competitors! They did get laughter from the audience but I must say the children were definitely funnier than the MPs ;)
There were a range of jokes, some complete with props, and each and every one of the children had the room erupting with laughter. Some children used iPads to tell their jokes and all of the children were full of character - I definitely think there are some comedians in the making!
Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck attended part of the event and it was great to catch up with him again. I also chatted with him to get a quote for a press release for RCSLT to send out to local media. Ian took the time to talk to the child from his constituency and posed for a photo with him.  It’s always lovely to catch up with Mr Lavery. I’m so pleased that over the 4 years since I first met him to tell him about Giving Voice that he has been a continued supporter of Speech and Language Therapy and has attended so many events to show his support.

Ian Lavery, MP with me in Speaker's House
Lord Quirk also attended - he was President of RCSLT between 1987 and 1991. In addition, in the late 1960s/early 1970s he chaired a committee of enquiry into speech therapy services (which fundamentally changed the profession!)
The event was brilliant and the children were all fantastic though I have to say the Parklands potato joke (complete with props!) remained my favourite (and I’m not at all biased! ;)
We broke off for a cup of tea and some cake while the judges were deciding the winner. I saw that South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck was talking to her constituent child (the child from my niece’s school) so I went and joined them for a chat. I told her that my niece took Voice Box to her school and that I’m a Speech and Language Therapist working in Leeds. It was lovely to chat to her and to hear how passionate she is about South Shields. (My home away from home!)

It was also lovely to have the chance to catch up with Andrea Robinson, who is also a member of the Giving Voice Innovation (GIG) group. She was also supporting a child in the final :)

Me with Andrea Robinson, SLT
Once we’d had our fill of tea and cake we went back in to find out the all-important results. The judging panel comprised of Octavia Holland (Director of The Communication Trust), Gary Northfield (children’s comic author) and last time’s Voice Box winner Jack. Before announcing the winner Gary showed the children how to draw Julius Zebra (from his book of the same title) and he presented all of the children with a framed certificate and goody bag. Once all the prizes were given we found out the 2 runners up and the winner…
And I am delighted to announce that the winner was (insert enthusiastic drum roll here…)
TJ from Parklands Primary School!
He was fantastic and the title was thoroughly deserved. He also looked the part in the 3 piece suit the head teacher (Chris Dyson) bought him for the occasion! The winner from Seacroft Grange also did really well and I am proud to have been part of their journey to London. All of the children were inspirational and it was clear how much they all enjoyed the day.

Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East, Chris Dyson Head Teacher and TJ - winner of Voice Box!
Richard tweeted about the event and shared this photo on Facebook and Twitter

After the competition we went on a tour of the Palace of Westminster and it was lovely to hear about the history of the building and to have a look around part of it. Unfortunately the House of Commons and the House of Lords were in sitting so we were unable to view the chambers.

Palace of Westminster

On Thursday my niece won cadet of the year at South Shields Girls Venture Air Corps and I tweeted Emma Lewell-Buck to say it was lovely to meet her on Wednesday, reminded her that Toni had took Voice Box to school last term and had just won Cadet of Year. She tweeted back on Friday and when I told Toni that her MP had tweeted to say well done she was over the moon.
RCSLT had their official photographer there on Wednesday and once I have access to these photos I’ll share some of them on here too.
Thanks so much for reading and well done again to everyone who was involved in such a brilliant event, we all made memories that we’ll treasure forever. I am looking forward to getting involved again next time round!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Laughter in Leeds

On Friday 11th December we hosted the Leeds Voice Box final at Parklands Primary School. It went really well and I was so proud to have been part of it. Three schools competed for the Leeds title and all the children told great jokes. The two visiting schools brought their schools winner and runner up and we show cased a few of our runners up from our November competition. Chris Dyson, Head Teacher, gave a very warm welcome to our visiting schools and started the afternoon off brilliantly.

It was our delight to welcome Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East to join our judging panel once again (this time after spending the whole afternoon with the school council). He was joined by Janet Addison, Head of Speech and Language Therapy and CAHMS (Leeds Community Healthcare) and Maureen Carr (who was invited following lots of generous donations of Christmas gifts to the school).
Tilly and Tom also joined in the afternoon by sitting with the judging panel, looking very festive in their Christmas jumpers. They enjoyed listening to the jokes and meeting the judges (and posing for a few photos too!)
The judging panel with Tilly and Tom
During the build up to the big day I decided it would nice if each of the finalists had a trophy so I ordered two more and kept my fingers (and toes!) crossed that they would arrive in time. On the Friday morning I received an email stating that the trophies would arrive between 14.26 and 15.26 that day! Voice Box was taking place 2-3pm so I asked the lady in the office to alert me if they arrived while we were still in the hall.  Half way through the show I saw her waving at me from outside the hall with two trophies in hand! I was so excited and quickly left the hall to get them from her.
One of the winners trophies
I was delighted that we were able to give each of the winners a trophy for making it to the Leeds final. Following the jokes from all of the children, the judging panel deliberated the important decision of overall Leeds winner while we listened to Year 4 sing Mamma Mia.

Richard Burgon made an inspirational speech and talked passionately about Leeds, the people living there and Parklands Primary School. He also announced that after spending the afternoon with the school council that he would like to invite them to visit the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. He also took the time to write to each of the 41 children from the November Parklands Voice Box competition. Richard then announced the winner, as decided by the judging panel. While he was talking each of three finalists were sat on the stage, fingers crossed, looking very hopeful they would be the lucky winner. I felt so proud of our team effort to make the afternoon so enjoyable for everyone, and was glad that each of the 3 children would leave with a trophy. Richard announced the winner and then presented each of the three finalists with a trophy, followed by the runners up with a medal.
One of the letters from Richard Burgon
Our year 5 Parklands winner, won the Leeds title with his brilliant joke about Princess Potatoes. Each of the winners from the three schools have been individually entered into the national competition and we look forward to hearing whether we have been shortlisted for the Westminster final.

I have received lots of positive feedback from the schools that took part and those who attended the Voice Box final. One of my SLT colleagues from one of the other schools said that their 2 girls were buzzing all the way home and their winner was telling everyone who would listen than she came second and showing them her trophy.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in Voice Box, from the lunch time joke clubs, joke workshops, rehearsals and live performances. It has  also been a fantastic opportunity to work even more closely with the schools fabulous SENCO (Laura) and Head Teacher (Chris), both of whom worked tirelessly to ensure Voice Box ran smoothly. It has also been great to get other schools involved and have the support of the local MP.

I am changing my NHS role in Leeds from January so I will no longer be working in Parklands Primary School. It has been a fantastic project to be involved in during my last term there and I hope that there will be opportunity to visit them again soon! I also hope that there will be opportunity to get schools involved in Voice Box again next time round!
Chris Dyson (Head Teacher), me, Tilly, Maureen
I can’t believe we are almost at the end of another year. It’s been another busy one and I’ve loved every minute! I started the year on a temporary NHS contract and am delighted that I am ending the year on a permanent contract – looks like I will be in Leeds longer than planned after all.

I enjoyed talking at the RCSLT Webinar on Political Engagement in July and then building on this further by developing links with the Leeds East MP through Voice Box. I have put feelers out in my team about us raising awareness of Giving Voice and SLT and we will be following this up in the New Year.

I am looking forward to seeing what 2016 will bring and wish you all lots of health and happiness for the New Year.  

Thank you for reading – see you in 2016!

Monday, 30 November 2015

Jolly Jokers Shine

I was so proud of the staff and students at school last week. Voice Box went really well and everyone enjoyed it! The children have worked so hard to learn and rehearse their jokes and all did brilliantly on stage! 41 children performed their jokes in front of a hall packed with children, parents, staff and the judging panel. Our judges included Michael Harvey from Business in the Community, Trevor Frost from TD Stockbrokers, Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East and Harry Gration from BBC Look North!

The week leading up to Voice Box was busy with helping children to prepare and practice their jokes. I did some additional rehearsal sessions with some of the children on my caseload who needed a little bit more specialist support with practising.

Over the half term holidays there was a competition for the children to design a poster advertising the event. There were lots of creative entries and the winner got a £10 gift card. All the posters have been displayed around school in the week leading up to Voice Box and the children were eagerly counting down to the big day!

On the Thursday afternoon we had a complete run through of all the jokes, to check the children were happy with what they were doing and to help them with projecting their voices etc. We also wanted to check that no one had changed their joke from the original entry (which only happened a couple of times!)

On the morning of Voice Box Laura (SENCO) and I decorated the hall ready for the afternoon. Laura bought some lovely star bunting and I had blown up some balloons. We put the medals and winner’s trophy on a table at the front and I put the Giving Voice pop up banner in the middle of the stage.

We set up a table for the judges near the front of the hall, decorated with vases of fresh flowers, Giving Voice goody bags and chocolates! Each of the judges also had a record sheet to score each of the children’s jokes to help them remember when they were choosing the winner!
My dad made calendars for each of the judges with facts about SLT on each month and some fab photos that he has taken himself.
All of the children were brilliant and so enthusiastic. The rest of the school enjoyed watching and it was a really lovely afternoon.

Harry Gration talked about how welcome we’d made him feel and how much he enjoyed the tour of the school before the competition began.

Before the winner was announced Chris (Head Teacher) said Thank You to me for bringing Voice Box to school and Harry Gration presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers! I thought this was very sweet and the flowers are still looking lovely now.

The winning joke was brilliant and performed with enthusiasm (and props!) I submitted this to RCSLT earlier in the week and wish him lots of luck in making it to the Grand Final at Westminster.

Tilly and Tom enjoyed meeting the judges!
Judges L to R: Trevor Frost, Michael Harvey, Richard Burgon MP, Harry Gration
Following the event there has been a lot of Twitter activity including from the judges. Harry Gration also mentioned the school on BBC Look North that night which was very exciting for us all!

Laura posted on Facebook that night and mentioned that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives! I thought this was lovely and every mention helps to get the message out even further.

I love how much of a team effort it has been and it would not have been possible without the enthusiasm of the head teacher and SENCO Laura. The children have loved it and are still telling jokes. It’s brilliant how it has got everyone communicating in such a positive way.

One of the teachers made a fab video slide show and I love how Tilly and Tom even made an appearance!

We are hosting the Leeds final on Friday 11th December and are looking forward to doing it all again! It’s not too late to get your school involved – my niece’s school did their whole Voice Box competition in a day so it doesn’t have to take a lot of planning. Further details can be found on the RCSLT Giving Voice website.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Final Countdown!

Just over a week until our Voice Box competition and planning and preparation is truly under way. We will be spending the coming days shortlisting the children who will be performing at our competition next week and allowing them time to practice delivering their jokes. We are all very excited as BBC Look North are coming.
The lunch time joke clubs and joke workshops (on No Pens Day) have all been going really well and it’s lovely to see the children’s enthusiasm for telling jokes. The joke workshops also highlighted which children struggled with the concept of jokes and those whom found it difficult to understand the jokes due to the vocabulary (e.g. many of them struggled with ‘Why did the boy go to bed with a pencil? So he could draw the curtains!). This allowed opportunity to talk about what makes a joke funny and also explore some of the vocabulary they didn’t understand (i.e. duel meaning of draw in this example).
I cannot walk down the corridor at break time without a child telling me they have a joke. It’s also lovely to hear the children telling jokes to each other and I’d like to think this is something that will continue after Voice Box is over!
My niece is telling her school about Voice Box tomorrow in assembly and they are having their competition on Friday (with tomorrow night to think about their jokes!) I am so proud that Toni has taken this into school and asked if they can take part. It’s not too late for you to do the same!
Last Friday, my dad hosted a launch of his new DVD ‘The Spirit Lives on’ (about Ashington Coal Company) and a preview was screened at the new community cinema in Ashington. He invited Ian Lavery, MP to the event and I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat to him again. He said he noticed on Twitter that I met Richard Burgon and told me to keep up the good work. I told him about why I met Richard and about my involvement in Voice Box in Leeds. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I gave him another Giving Voice pen and got a photo with him. I told him I brought another pen for him in case his previous ones ran out and he said the last one had just before he left the house! Haha. It was nice to see him again, and see him continue to support the local community. It was a lovely evening and I was proud to be there and support my dad.
Ian Lavery, MP and me
I am looking forward to the next week and getting ready for Voice Box! The children have  worked so hard and I am looking forward to hearing them perform their jokes on stage! Thank you for reading!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Extremely Exciting!

Today started off as any other work day… I snoozed my alarm as many times as I could before finally getting out of bed and making my must have cup of tea!  I then somehow managed to spill half a bottle of milk all over the carpet. I was so annoyed but my grandma always used to say ‘there’s no point crying over spilt milk’ (this time literally!) so I cleaned it up, didn’t cry and got on with my day. I may not have started the day quite as successfully as I would have liked but I was determined not to let it make a bad day for me.
I had a good (and busy!) day at work – my spilt milk a distant memory! After work I headed to meet Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East to follow up the letter I sent him on behalf of school a couple of weeks ago.
I arrived at Corpus Christi Club at 5pm with a copy of the letter, Giving Voice pens and a leaflet. There were a few people there waiting already so I sat down and waited. I began to feel a little nervous while I was waiting but I was excited too!
When Mr Burgon arrived he greeted us all and the first thing he noticed was my Giving Voice badge! (asking what it was). I always like to wear my Giving Voice badge as people often ask me about it which gives me opportunity to tell them about Speech and Language Therapy.
I waited about an hour before it was my turn to go in but the meeting was worth the wait! I explained that I had written to him a couple of weeks ago about being a judge for Voice Box at the school I work in as part of my NHS role. I explained that I wanted to meet him in person to explain what the competition is about. I told him about the national competition and the grand final being held at Westminster. I also invited him to be a judge at our school Voice Box and also the Leeds final competition that we are also hosting.

Mr Burgon was interested in the competition and also my role as a Speech and Language Therapist. I told him about Giving Voice and how I have been involved since the beginning of the campaign, including my involvement with my MP back home. He correctly guessed that home was the North East (I’ve no idea what gave it away… ;) ) He then tried to guess the MP (and after I narrowed it down to Northumberland he quickly guessed correct with Ian Lavery.)  He told me he is good friends with Ian Lavery and has known him for a long time (Since before they were both MPs) – small world!
I gave Mr Burgon a Giving Voice pen (he was very pleased with this…everyone loves a pen!) and left him with a copy of the letter and a Giving Voice leaflet. I was delighted that he has agreed to attend both of our Voice Box competitions and I look forward to meeting him again next month.
Planning for Voice Box is going really well - I had my first lunch time joke club yesterday with 11 children from year 4 and year 6. Tilly and Tom helped us and enjoyed thinking of jokes too (you can find them here on Facebook and here on Twitter). The children really enjoyed it – we spent time thinking of and looking for jokes. Each child chose their favourite one and shared it with us at the end of the club. We are also doing joke workshops on our No Pens Day next week to continue to inspire the children!

I tweeted Mr Burgon (and Mr Lavery) when I got home and I look forward to welcoming him to our school in November. I was excited to see that Mr Burgon tweeted about meeting me this evening!
We also have other exciting guests at our school competition and I am really excited about how well it is all coming together. The staff in school are really embracing it and the children keep stopping me in the corridor to tell me jokes. I love how much it is getting everyone talking and thinking of jokes.  

I love my job and the lovely children I work with. Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives <3
To find out more about Voice Box and to get involved visit the Giving Voice website. Also why not invite your own local MP to the competition. I am so glad I decided to go along and meet our local MP this evening – a brilliant ending to a day that started off a little sour!