Sunday, 9 January 2011

A ‘royal’ start to the National Year of Communication - Laura Smith, Media and Campaign Manager

This weekend I finally got to see the Kings Speech (out in cinemas now), which according to a steward at Shepherds Bush has been sold out across London in a way he ‘has never seen before’.

Considering the anticipation, vast amounts of publicity and perfect timing to the national year of communication, I was not disappointed.

In fact, I was hugely moved. Moved not only by the content of this film, which shows one man (who happens to be a King in waiting) and his journey to come to terms with his communication difficulties, but by seeing first hand the audience reaction to the film.

The Kings Speech shows how King George VI, who has a stammer, finds techniques to express himself with support from his speech therapist. You cringe at his humiliation, laugh out loud as his sense of humour, are touched by the support of his wife and are moved to tears when he finds his voice and ultimately respect from the people around him.

I could see the audience – from young to old and from a range of backgrounds – experiencing a ‘light bulb’ moment that many of us realised many moons ago. That if you find communication hard, you find life hard; that communication difficulties can affect anyone (even the Monarchy) and that this issue had then - as it does today - low levels of public recognition.

January’s theme for Hello – national year of communication is ‘Don’t take communication for granted’. We could not ask for a better way to start the year than with a film that captures the public interest and inspires the media to look at the impact of communication difficulties.

It provides a great platform for the cause – the more people who can go and see it and then blog, ‘tweet’ or facebook about it – the better. We are delighted that the British Stammering Association and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, in particular, are benefiting directly from the close association to the story.

A mass media opportunity like this film is a blessing. Happy New Year and Happy Hello!