Ilford “Barnardo’s boy” overcomes stammer to become public speaker

Brian Skelton with his public speaking area governor award. Picture Ann-Marie Abbasah/Archant

Brian Skelton with his public speaking area governor award. Picture Ann-Marie Abbasah/Archant - Credit: Archant

A lifelong stammerer has overcome his difficulty to become a governor at an international public speaking club.

Brian Skelton with his public speaking area governor award. Picture Ann-Marie Abbasah/Archant

Brian Skelton with his public speaking area governor award. Picture Ann-Marie Abbasah/Archant - Credit: Archant

Brian Skelton, 61, of Valentines Road, Ilford, was named Toastmasters district 91 area governor after being inspired to tackle his speech impediment by talent show star Gareth Gates.

Toastmasters is a not-for-profit organisation aimed at building public speaking confidence and leadership skills.

The British Museum security guard, who received his trophy on Saturday, said he felt emotional when he was given the title at an event in Reading last year.

“It came as a complete surprise when they read my name out,” said Brian.


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“I felt really emotional as I often do when talking about how far I have come to the people who helped me.”

Brian attended the Starfish Project, East Sussex in 2005 and learned techniques derived from those taught to King George VI by Australian Lionel Logue, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush in the 2010 movie The King’s Speech.

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There he was able to share his feelings with other people who stammered and disclose difficult events from his childhood which led him to grow up in Barnardo’s village, Barkingside.

He had decided to address his stammer after watching stuttering teenager Gareth Gates on talent show Pop Idol.

David Blight, who runs the three-day course with wife Anne, called Brian a wonderful man who returns to the project several times a year to help others.

David said: “Who better to teach others than someone who has walked a million miles in your shoes?”

Toastmasters has more than 130 clubs around the world. As area governor, Brian was required to speak in front of crowds at events around London.

While he once found life isolating, he now has a full social life and encourages others with similar difficulties to seek help.

Visit starfishproject.co.uk or call 01825 767268

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