Category Archives: BLOG

Mistletoe, Mulled Wine & Urban Voices

Vanessa Feltz

There were whoops and standing ovations at The carol concert in aid of the Rainbow Trust tonight.

The golden glow of the inside of St Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge was the setting for an event that brought in the Christmas season. Well warmed through on mulled wine, apple juice and mince pies, we all packed into the church and were treated to some great music from EL8 and Urban Voices. They sang mine, friends Isabel and Ruby and Fearne Cotton’s favourite “All I want for Christmas” which was better in the raw than Maria Carey’s.

There was an address by Anne Harris, Director of Care at the Rainbow Trust, which was a pleasure to listen to. She told a story of the work at Rainbow Trust with a couple of examples of their work. Lightly and seemingly effortlessly told she engaged us throughout a five minute talk without an autocue, never looking at notes and only once lost the rhythm by going too fast.

Vanessa Feltz read The Twelve Thank You Notes of Christmas from Emily to Edward with such fantastic timing it had us rolling in the aisles. She has such a powerful and clear voice. She’d be great doing stand-up. When I was on my way to the BBC Radio London studio one morning the taxi driver who was driving me spent all his time talking about her and her show.

Sometimes it was a tirade against her sometimes in praise of her cleverness. She harnesses her audience and rides with them. She’s one of the few people who can seamlessly talk for hours, switching from subject to subject without losing vocal energy and without losing her audience. She has wonderful thought to voice clarity. I wonder if she talks out loud when she’s writing?

Saturday 4th.

So Arsenal have won. Well I’m happy but I know a few people who aren’t. Normally I don’t like to work unless I’m on the job so to speak, but I have to say I loved the way Gary Lineker uses his voice and who was the commentator of the match? Was it John Lotts? I thought he was wonderful. A slightly spread ‘s’ which far from marring his commentary, sexed it up.

Teacher Awarded £150,000 for Losing Her Voice

Harlington Community School

“Huge payout for woman injured by having to talk loudly in class.”
“Teacher awarded £150,000 for losing her voice.”

These were the headlines when English teacher Joyce Walters quit her job at the Harlington Community School run by Hillingdon Council, after developing vocal cord nodules. She says the nodules were caused by constantly raising her voice and repeating herself over the din from a nearby children’s play area.

£150,000 is a lot of money and it’s from us – the tax payers. Hillingdon Council could have saved £149,000 by investing £1000.00 in voice and speech training for Mrs Walters.

I’m currently training 5 teachers in voice and speech. Four of them are funding themselves. All of them attended a voice and speech training course as part of their PGCE but in all cases there were more than 100 on the course and the duration of the course was an afternoon or morning. This is clearly not satisfactory unless it’s followed through with extra coaching.

Everyone’s voice is a unique part of their physical and mental make-up. Small groups or 1-2-1 coaching in voice and speech is the way forward for successful training in long-term voice care. Many schools and colleges have drama teachers on their staff who’ve been trained or could be trained in voice and communication and therefore offer help in the form of advice and training to fellow teachers.

In some of the larger schools I’ve worked in as a voice coach, the only teachers on the staff who’ve not been off work with sore throats and lost voices are the Head Teacher and the Drama Teachers.
Mrs Walters says her employers did not do enough to help her and that she was asked to teach even more students. Failing to send Mrs Taylor to an ENT specialist when she was struggling with her voice is neglecting a duty of care and bad management.

The easiest way to ascertain whether or not there is a problem with a person’s vocal cords is to ask them to say an extended “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. If there is a break or breaks in the sound, it’s an indication that the vocal cords aren’t adducting or closing and this may be due to the onset or presence of vocal fold nodules. When I’ve referred clients to our ENT specialist because I’ve suspected nodules, the sound that they have produced is usually loud (raised) and forced with over strong bursts of breath.

It’s important, that after the operation to remove nodules, that a period of complete rest of the voice is followed by voice coaching. The voice coaching involves re-education on how the voice works, how to connect to the voice and how to use the voice. This can come a surprise to people who’ve used their voice in a certain way for so long that they don’t realise there is another way of producing sound which is “released” rather than “forced”.

In the long run, receiving voice and speech coaching pays off, as it not only improves vocal communication but it also improves energy levels and general health. Of course the best option is voice and speech coaching in voice care and the use of voice as part of the personal development of teachers and lecturers.

Joyce Taylor is still awaiting assurances from Hillingdon council that something is done to prevent others suffering.