In the weekend of the 31st of August till the 2nd of September I was in Cardiff, Wales with a Dutch group of people with a stutter. This was for the biennial conference of the English Stutter Association. Thursday night we arrived and we explored Cardiff with a group of PWS on Friday. This was the group that I got to know during an international exchange program for PWS. Cardiff ended up being a beautiful city with a very big park.
On Friday evening, the program of the conference started with a welcome speech by the organisers of the conference. To stimulate us to start talking to each other, a fifteen minute speed date was organised. The lecture hall in which we were seated was not very practical for this purpose, but all five talks were fun. It appeared not all people present stuttered or stuttered in the past, but the conference had also attracted therapists and researchers. It was very interesting to hear their motivations and reasons to come to this conference.
The next activity this evening, was a workshop on the basics of beatboxing. A very nice workshop, which connected very well to stuttering because your breathing and a personal flow are very important to create the special beatboxing sounds. The evening ended with a our first meal together and a drink at the bar. Both dinner and the following evening provided plenty of opportunity to talk to people, make new contacts and most of all have fun together.
Saturday started with the first open mic session. A lot of people got to talk in front of a full lecture hall and told something about the role that stuttering has or had in their lives. All of these stories were very relatable and supported the theme of the conference: ‘You are more than good enough’. After the open mic, the workshops started. The main program existed out of six 60-minute workshops, with each hour a choice between two or more workshops. The Saturday had four workshops with short coffee breaks in between and a warm meal in the evening. There were many different workshops, which made it difficult to choose.
I started my Saturday with a workshop which was aimed at the question: What can be seen as perfection? It had a very special, but also very beautiful drawing as a result, to which all contestants contributed. The second one was aimed at all the attention paid to stuttering in the media, by programs like: ‘The Undateables’ and ‘The Secret Helpers’. This workshop also focussed on the experiences of the PWS who worked directly with these programs. The third workshop was given by a stuttering army officer who spoke about his function and leadership in a very humoristic way. The last one of the day was about using Virtual Reality to help lessen your fear of speaking. A clear presentation with the possibility to also try this Virtual Reality.
The Saturday ended with a very luxurious dinner. The tables seated eight people at one table which once again stimulated to have conversations with each other. I was seated with people I had not spoken to before, like an older couple, who were very nice. I have spent a lot of time speaking to them during the evening. When dinner came to an end, a singer came on stage to perform. This elicited the necessary motivation for a lot of people to dance on a non-existing dancefloor.
On Sunday there were two workshops left. The first one was an introduction into Mindfulness. Known to many for the great tools it provides to achieve inner peace. In these 60 minutes we were introduced to the core principles of Mindfulness by means of a short presentation and an exercise. The second workshop of the day was an introduction into improvisational theatre. Something that scares many people who stutter, but therefore, also worked very liberating. As was seen during this fun and interactive workshop.
When all workshops were over, the conference ended with a second open mic session. Everyone who felt up to it was encouraged with applause, to tell what they wanted to share in front of a lecture hall filled with people. A lovely ending to a very successful conference!