Earlier this year Bryony Kimmings gave a one woman show called “7 Days Drunk”, at the Edinburgh Festival, when she explored the effects of alcohol on creativity.
“The material for the show was taken over a 7 day period when she was cocooned in a studio being filmed drinking copious amounts of vodka and she illustrates the insidious effects of alcohol as she goes on a journey of self analysis and regret. The show included filmed comments from a psychiatrist and psychologist on her disintegrating state as she attempts to drink herself into oblivion. They concluded that alcohol degenerates the mind, body and soul and on the last day, after ten shots of vodka, she writes a melancholic song, full of regrets and missed opportunities.” As you can imagine, the show was a great talking point at the Fringe clubs over champagne cocktails. The acting profession has always attracted publicity for actors who like to drink, especially those who like to drink to excess. We used to fall about over stories of actors propping themselves up on set furniture, peeing into their armour, going blank mid song. Now we’re much more aware of the dangers of drinking too much. Artists who drink in order to soar into the stratosphere of their creative minds usually end up dead.
Office party goers who drink in a desperate effort to have a good time at the Christmas party, have the London Ambulance Service’s “booze buses” – mobile treatment centres that operate in the West End to look after them. They picked up nearly 300 “passengers” throughout the festive period last year. In the days before you blew into a tube, alcohol tests for drunk drivers were whether or not you could say “she sells seashells on the seashore” without slurring your words and while walking in a straight line.
Stories of normally very straight laced lawyers wandering around the City without shoes and not knowing where they live, do make us titter. They know that excess drinking is not the thing to do, if you want clients to trust you to look after their interests in court. But what about artists? Rimbaud, Proust, Amis, Gaugin, Bacon, Dorothy Parker, Hitchcock, Claudette, Freud and countless others all loved to drink and many artists believe that it enhances their work. Do we care when we read a brilliant book, see a wonderful film, see a breathtaking painting whether or not it was created through drinking alcohol?
According to New York Daily: The Gothamist, the New York accent is slipping into neutral and sometimes through choice:
“Over the last year, there has been a lot of discussion about the death of accents around the city; people in Queens are fretting about it, people in Brooklyn are defiant about it. But what happens when people choose to unload themselves of their unique accents with professional help?
The Times reports today on the trend, with a particular focus on Sam Chwat, who is considered the dean of speech therapists. He says that clients have come to him upset about the way they’re perceived because of their accent, lobbing complaints such as, “‘People don’t understand what I’m saying,’ ‘I’m stigmatized by the way I speak.’ ‘I’m tired of people imitating or ridiculing the way I speak, or saying I sound “cute.”’ ‘My accent seems to imply negative characteristics.’ ” Other speech therapists practically make it sound like having a New Yawk accent is a disease: “A New York accent makes you sound ignorant. People listen to the accent, but not to what you’re saying,” said speech therapist Lynn Singer.
The article bring up an old debate: how important is one’s accent to their identity? One student of Singer’s said, “I felt if I lost my accent I’d lose part of who I was. Almost no one thinks I’m from Queens anymore.” Is it better to smooth over all of one’s vocal imperfections in the pursuit of wider acceptance, or in pursuit of a career? And if making fun of Jersey accents is racist, does that make the eradication of New York accents some kind of genocide?”
It all reads like some drama, but fortunately regional accents are going strong in the UK. Yesterday I spoke to O2 about altering my mobile phone contract and the girl who sorted me out had a great regional accent (Preston Brook, Cheshire). Where there is a pocket of originals the accent will survive. It’s not often that children learn 4 languages simultaneously, in which case it would be more likely that the other original accents would go, if one language took priority. (By the way – I got a great deal on my i-phone!)
Richard Ingrams, a man of few words said with a drop dead gorgeous bear voice (who wouldn’t want a bedside story read by him), has been writing about female voices:
“I find it odd how few women on TV pay attention to the all-important voice factor. I recently instanced the distressing case of Janet Street-Porter, comparing her voice – harshly, I will admit – to the squawking of a sick corvid. Now it is the turn of Channel 4’s Cathy Newman. Recently Michael Crick defected from Newsnight and replaced Ms Newman as political correspondent. She now presents the hour-long news programme alongside the distinguished grey-haired veteran Jon Snow. Uncompromisingly blonde, like ninety per cent of young women on TV, Cathy is easy on the eye, but her distorted vowel sounds and rasping delivery are the last things one wants to listen to after a hard day at the office. Yet all this could be corrected with the assistance of a voice coach. Why isn’t it?”
Why isn’t it? Cathy Newman’s FactCheck blogs are witty and astute and her insider knowledge is of long standing. Newsreaders’ voices are key. Kirsty Young’s voice was a main contributor to the success of Channel 5 news when it first began.
At the beginning of the year we asked our clients who they thought was the best newsreader (male and female categories). Sadly, most of the feedback we received was about newsreaders’ voices they didn’t like. We’ll announce the results at the end of the year.
Richard Ingrams founded the satirical Oldie magazine in 1992. It was originally begun as an antidote to youth culture, but its circulation is soaring among grumpy people of all ages.