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Monty Python veteran Michael Palin: ‘We all fear having to stand up and speak’

PUBLISHED: 16:17 28 October 2016

Michael Palin at Whittington stammering centre

Michael Palin at Whittington stammering centre

Archant

The prolific broadcaster said people with stammers must not feel alone – and he gets as nervous as anyone when speaking in public.

The Gospel Oak actor spoke after a visit to the Michael Palin Centre, a specialist facility for young people and children, to mark International Stuttering Awareness Day on Friday.

Mr Palin is closely involved with the Farringdon centre, which is run by Whittington Health and charity Action for Stammering Children.

The charity estimates that five per cent of children will stammer at some point and approximately one per cent continue to stammer into adulthood. Stammering is three to four times more common in boys than in girls.

While he does not have a speech impediment, Mr Palin says he still struggles with speaking in public.

He told the Ham&High: “Stammerers are not alone.

“We all fear having to stand up and speak, and the stammer is just a progression of that...

“I get as nervous as anybody else when having to speak.”

Mr Palin’s father had a stammer, but he says that when he was growing up it was never spoken about: “With my father it was just an embarrassment. He never discussed it at home. Like a lot of other things, people talk about it more.”

But with high profile figures such as Strictly contestant and former politician Ed Balls “coming out, as it were, as a stammerer”, the stigma has lessened.

He believes, however, that there is more pressure on those who have difficulties speaking in our fast-paced world.

“What happens now is there’s so many voices, there are so many demands on people’s time so if we want to get on in life we have to speak quickly.”

Visiting the centre, Mr Palin was encouraged by the positivity of the children and young people. They benefit from intensive speech therapy programmes, including early intervention sessions.

Elaine Kelman, professional lead for speech and language services at Whittington Health, said: “Michael has been involved with our centre for over 20 years and his visits are an important part of helping our children and young people realise their potential in life.”

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