Giving Voice

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!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Tilly and Tom

Just a quick update tonight...I'm so busy and time is flying by! Planning for Voice Box is well underway and the children have already started thinking of jokes. I’m also planning some activities for our No Pens Day later this month. It was National No Pens Day Wednesday yesterday but we have decided to do it on the last day of this half term. It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to write more but for now I am going to tell you about my latest project.
Last weekend when I went home to Northumberland these two beautiful children were there to greet me.
They moved to Leeds with me on Sunday and have already settled in nicely.
They started school on Tuesday and already they feel like family! The children in school absolutely love them (as do the adults!). Tilly even got her very own school uniform yesterday and quickly gave up her dummy (as she’s much too old for one now!)
Gosh...don't they grow up quickly!
I have set up a Facebook page to share their story and to use it as a way of raising awareness of Speech and Language Therapy in a fun way. I am hoping they might even have some jokes of their own for Voice Box ;)
Find Tilly and Tom on Facebook and Twitter and follow their story. Please do interact with them - I just know that they will love to hear from you! J

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Voice Box (ad)Venture...Join in the Jokes!

Already a few weeks into a new term, I don’t know where the time is going! The nights are getting longer, leaves are changing colour and everyone is beginning to talk about Christmas parties…where did the summer go?

I love Autumn, it’s one of my favourite times of year. I love the crisp air and the pretty colours though I’m not so keen on the shorter days and the colder weather.

The autumn term is one of the longest so it’s nice to have something to look forward to. As part of my NHS role I am based in a primary school most of my week and we have decided to take part in the national Voice Box competition.
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists have teamed up with The Communication Trust to run this year’s Voice Box competition. It encourages schools to hold a joke-telling competition and submit the winning joke to RCSLT with 10 pupils being shortlisted and invited to the final which is to be held at Westminster!
I am extremely excited to be involved in this, encouraging children to create jokes and enjoy the fun side of communication! We are holding Voice Box in school and are going to invite the local MP to be on the judging panel. We have also set a date to host a Leeds wide final at school too!
We plan to use some time on No Pens Day for the children to think of jokes. I am talking at the school assembly tomorrow to introduce them to Voice Box and No Pens Day. I am looking forward to this new experience and inspiring the children to explore their funny side!
If you work in a school or know someone who does why not suggest Voice Box to them? It’s a great way to enjoy the fun aspects of communication, building confidence and self-esteem. Further details can be found here and there are lots of resources to help you plan the event.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Giving Voice Local Heroes Make National Champions

As I mentioned in my previous post RCSLT invited me to be a guest speaker at a webinar (online seminar) event in London last week and I was honoured and delighted to attend. The webinar GivingVoice: local heroes make national champions: engaging with MPs, aimed to share information about what RCSLT has done and is doing to influence parliamentarians and to share best practice examples of local influencing.

 I set my alarm early on Friday morning ready for my train to London! I'd packed my Giving Voice bag with goodies the night before!
While at the train station I got talking to a homeless man and I bought him a hot drink as he was so cold. He was so grateful and was glad that I stopped to have a chat. Conversation is free and I am always happy to talk to people; it was nice to put a smile on someone’s face so early on a Friday morning when everyone was just rushing past. It’s sometimes the simple things that mean the most, and I felt this was the start of a positive day. After our chat I headed to get my train, enthusiastic about the day ahead.

I wore my Giving Voice badge on my bag, ready to engage any unsuspecting fellow train travellers in a conversation about Speech and Language Therapy, but I was sat on my own so I just read my notes and rehearsed my speech in my head instead!

I have spoken at a number of events about Speech and Language over recent years but this was my first experience of speaking at a webinar. Not sure what to expect, I arrived slightly apprehensive but the staff at RCSLT quickly put me at ease as they talked through the running order of the day and explained how the equipment worked. The practice run through of the webinar was useful to listen to the other speakers before we went live. This was also helpful to get to know the equipment and get used to wearing the headset and mic.

We had a working lunch and it was nice to chat more to the other speakers. We also had time for a quick photo with Kamini Gadhok, CEO of RCSLT.
The Webinar speakers with Kamini Gadhok
The webinar was live online at 1pm and RCSLT members began logging on 10 minutes before, ready to engage in the session. Derek Munn, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at RCSLT chaired the meeting and welcomed everyone to the event.  Peter Just, Public Affairs advisor at RCSLT was the first speaker and explained the importance of engaging with MPs and what RCSLT have been doing and plan to do to continue keeping Speech and Language Therapy on the agenda.

I was the next speaker and I shared my experiences of engaging with my MP (Ian Lavery) from the first meeting in constituency to meeting him in London during a Mass Mobilisation event and inviting him to local events I organised in constituency.

Rachel Clare, student SLT at UCL shared her experience of her involvement in ‘The Great Letter Writing Challenge’ where students from the Giving Voice society wrote to MPs in the lead up to the general election about the RCSLT manifesto asks.

Janet Cooper, SLT manger, told us how Stoke Speaks Out engaged with local MPs to help shape the local decision making and successfully prepare for the future. It was interesting to listen to Janet's experience and how influencing can really have such a positive impact!

I enjoyed taking part in the webinar, meeting the other speakers and hearing about their experiences too. It has reignited my passion for raising awareness of the profession and I hope to continue spreading awareness of the valuable work of SLTs in Leeds also. I am hoping we can get schools involved in national joke telling competition ‘Voice Box’ in the autumn term, which is organised by RCSLT and The Communication Trust. I look forward to sharing future involvement here on my blog.

After the webinar I had a little bit of time before my train so I went for a walk along London Bridge and had an ice cream in the sunshine! I always enjoy visiting London and even managed a quick cuppa with my cousin Kirsty who lives in London, before catching the train back to Leeds.
Tower Bridge
The RCSLT webinar is available to view online here if you are interested in finding out more.  I hope it inspires you to get involved in local influencing! Don’t forget to ask RCSLT for any support you need, or to share your experiences with them.

Thanks for reading! Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Happy Birthday!

We are more than half way through the year! I do not know where the time is going! I am still working hard in Leeds and thoroughly enjoying my job.

A few weeks ago a friend (and fellow Speech and Language Therapist), Charlotte and I went to Holy Trinity Church to celebrate the Giving Voice choir’s 1st birthday. Giving Voice is an inclusive choir for adults with neurological conditions and their carers. It was launched in June 2014 and was formed by Speech and Language Therapist, Wendy Neill. I really enjoyed their Christmas performance and was looking forward to seeing and hearing them perform again to celebrate their first birthday.

The evening began with an introduction from Wendy Neill and then the choir began with a lovely performance of ‘We like to sing’. Guests were provided with a song book so we could join in with the songs too. It was clear that everyone was enjoying themselves and it was lovely to be there to celebrate their first birthday.

Wendy thanked a number of people at the end of the first half of performances before the interval. Following this Thea Stein, Chief Executive of Leeds Community Healthcare, then thanked Wendy for her hard work and dedication to the choir.

No birthday party is complete without a buffet, drinks and birthday presents. During the break there were refreshments and an opportunity to buy raffle tickets for the chance to win one of the beautifully wrapped birthday gifts.
The choir then sang another selection of songs before the raffle was drawn and we all sang happy birthday! Sadly, I didn’t win a birthday present, but I did have a lovely evening listening to the choir sing in the church. We signed the visitors book and had some birthday cake before we left. If you are in Leeds and haven’t seen the Giving Voice choir perform, it’s definitely a nice evening’s entertainment and I will look out for future performances.

Speaking of birthdays it’s 4 years this month since I started this blog and this post is my 100th post. In July 2011 when I decided to start this blog I didn’t think I would write so much! I am so pleased that people have been interested, and read it and can’t believe it has had over 27,000 page views! Hopefully the second half of the year will bring more opportunities to blog and spread awareness of Speech and Language Therapy!

In other news, I am looking forward to travelling to London on Friday to speak at a webinar at RCSLT headquarters. I’m going to talk about my involvement in engaging MP Ian Lavery. For further information about the event visit RCSLTs website here: Giving Voice – local heroes make national champions: engaging with MPs

I hope it is useful to a lot of RCSLT members and I look forward to updating you after the event!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Paloma gives me Faith

I have no idea how it’s April and this is the first Giving Voice blog post I’ve written this year! Time flies past so quickly! I am still working hard and loving working as a Speech and Language Therapist.

As I am sure you are all aware, the general election is rapidly approaching (if you are not aware of this, where have you been hiding!). This is a very important time for the country and a perfect time to raise awareness of Speech and Language Therapy with local candidates to ensure that it remains on the political agenda.

RCSLT are asking members to write to local candidates to ensure that newly elected MPs are aware of the importance of SLT. You can find out more about this on the RCSLT Giving Voice website here

RCSLT are calling on the political parties ‘to support early identification of speech, language and communication needs’, and ‘ensure equal access to Speech and Language Therapy support’. It will only take a few minutes out of your day to help contribute to this important campaign. I have previously developed good working foundations with the current MP for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) and it really is not as scary as you might think!

We all have a voice, and more importantly we all have a right to make our voices heard. Last month I saw Paloma Faith, live in Newcastle, and I was really pleased that she used her tour as an opportunity to remind everyone of the importance of using your vote as people have fought for this right for us in the past. I couldn’t agree more and I think it’s really good that she used the opportunity of an arena full of people to remind people that we can use our voice by voting (without taking anything away from the concert). So don’t forget to vote on 7th May, and write to local candidates in the mean time!
Thanks for reading!