Tracey Emin’s Exhibition


Tracey Emin's Exhibition

Saw Tracey Emin’s exhibition at the Hayward – mainly out of curiosity. I wasn’t really expecting much but I did want to see the famed bed. My spirits weren’t lifted by the words of the ticket collector as we went in: “it’s not my cup of tea…” and on entering the first room my expectations seemed to have been met.

The corrugated hut built on stilts, later explained to me as being built in memory of her father who loved to hear the rain against the roof, dominates the room. On the walls, stitch edged blankets hold written or sewn messages from Tracey as a schoolgirl. Shades of Pink Floyd and the Wall. Neon signs blaze out messages of love and sex. I’m starting to get the picture of an adolescent’s yearning for love through sex.

Through to the next room filled with memorabilia. A huge black and white picture of her family at a jolly outdoor celebration covers one wall, glass cabinets filled with notes and pictures of a museum of art somewhere in Camden. This for me is where it starts to get really interesting.

There is a picture called “goodbye mummy” with embroidered flowers emanating from the womb of the outline of a woman. There are used tampons, with an explanation of her type of bleeding and her acceptance of when it will be over. There is a wordless, looped film of her riding a pony on Margate beach (her hometown) and a graphic shot of her face as she looks into the camera and steers the pony away. It should be funny – like someone pretending to be a wild west heroine, but it leaves you feeling uneasy. There is a film of her being interviewed about her abortion. I don’t know whether or not it was filmed for this exhibition or was filmed some time ago. It is very moving.

Her voice is like a sincere child’s voice and thinking about, it that’s what this exhibition is all about for me. The ebullience, wonder and curiosity of a child, taken beyond into adulthood. The fantastic acceptance of it all. It mentioned in the notes that Tracey Chapman first received recognition when she was interviewed for an arts programme on TV. The impact of a voice can never be underestimated.

Cheryl Cole’s Accent


Cheryl Cole

So Cheryl Cole’s been axed from the American X Factor on the grounds that her accent is unintelligible to an American audience. American audiences are notorious for not understanding regional English accents, that much is true. I’ve been instructed by producers of films for the American market, to soften regional accents and make sure that the actors’ regional accents aren’t too strong. Trainspotting had subtitles when it was screened in the USA.

I can accept that a judge on a TV show needs to be easily heard and understood both by the contestants and audiences. However, it doesn’t ring true that Cheryl would be sacked because of not being understood. What was stopping Fox from hiring a discreet voice coach with integrity for Cheryl? Just to make sure that she’s clearly understood?

If it’s alright for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge to have a voice coach, it’s surely alright for our Cheryl. The Geordie accent is particularly attractive and very much part of her personality and branding. This is show business after all. No, there is more to this than is apparent. Anyone who’s seen recent photos of Cheryl with Simon Callow will have seen the body language of estrangement.

Cheryl should take a leaf out of J-Lo’s book. Can you imagine anyone treating J-Lo badly and getting away with it? I think not.

Paloma Faith is Mockneyed


Paloma Faith

Caw Blimey the beautiful singer Paloma Faith has been complaining that people have been taking the rise out of her cockney accent. One of her Professors at Central Saint Martins, where she trained in theatre and stage design, used to mock her pronunciation and she’s been sounding off about it.

A spokesman from the University of the Arts London, which Central Saint Martins is part of , said: The university is home to a diverse community of staff and students from many different backgrounds, and that diversity is a big part of our strength, so we take Paloma’s comments very seriously. We oppose any kind of discrimination and our teaching staff undergo “fairness in selecting students’ training to ensure a level playing field for all applicants”.

Let’s hope that the “fairness in selecting students’ training” extends to when they are training the students. Too many students get confidence knocked out of them for the way they speak. In the arts it’s more likely that students will take it on the chin, notice that it gets them noticed and start using it as part of their image.

This has happened with people like David Hockney, Janet Street-Porter and Tracy Emin. This too may be happening with Paloma Faith, who brands celebrity culture as “silly” and “superficial”. However, sensitive students, can show an outer strength and suffer inside when their accents have been mocked.

I have 2 lecturers who come to me for training who started “dumbing down” their voice and speech when they were made fun of by their tutors at University.

I would always advise that it’s not your accent but the way you use your accent that matters. If you’re going to be a defiant cocky cockney then people will hear that in your accent. If you’re a reasonable speaker and listener then the chances are people won’t notice your accent – and if they do – then you shouldn’t be wasting your time talking to them. Most accents, if they aren’t over strong, are very attractive.

For those who have to do business internationally, it’s important to make sure their spoken English is clearly and easily understood. Americans for instance, are notorious in not understanding English regional accents, which is one reason while dialect coaches on films being shown in America are asked to make sure that accents aren’t too strong.

It’s important to have a clear enough English accent in video conferences between for instance Australian and Indian business people. No matter how brilliant your software team is, they aren’t going to go too far if they can’t communicate in English. This is why voice coaches like me at Max Your Voice, work with people on Accent Neutralisation.

Some people in politics and the legal professions for instance, want to have their original standard English accent restored to them after a sojourn abroad or want to attain a standard English accent. At Max Your Voice, we do both, with care and sensitivity – and a lot of laughs on the way.

Fern Bitton’s Interviewing & Presenting


Fern Britton

Sad to hear that Fern may have her afternoon television show axed. Her interviewing and presenting skills are really good – better than the other contenders for this spot: Peter Andre, etc.

When you watch and listen to a Fern interview, you know that she’s interested in the person or people she’s interviewing, beyond the notes that have been handed to her by her researchers.

The long term Woman’s Hour presenter on radio 4, Jenny Murray, has the same talent. Although we can’t see her we can hear the real “wanting to know” interest in her voice when she’s interviewing people.

Scott James on Radio 1 has the same skill, as does Dermot o’Leary. Lorraine Kelly on morning TV has it in abundance. This ability to listen with care and gently probe the interviewer without unnerving them is a wonderful gift and makes for really good viewing and listening.

It’s the production team and the programme format that has let Fern down. They’re, out of touch with what viewers want. Who would want to tweet a programme with an action for someone who just happens to be in in Oxford? No wonder Fern’s looking and sounding uncomfortable.

Source: The Guardian

BBC World Service


William Hague

Gung-ho William Hague has caused the BBC World Service to axe five of its language services. He says that BBC programmes can be accessed online. Really?

A bit of a struggle to follow a programme when it’s not in your own language and even if your English is good, there’s no comparison to listening to some excellently researched and presented programme in your own language or dialect. The BBC World Service is known for the quality of its unbiased journalism.
We are a small country much smaller than France, why can’t we keep what we’re good at and known for? He’s sending out a poor us voice message to the rest of the world. The money that’s saved by axing the jobs related to the 5 language services will be as nothing to the money lost in this country’s future along with the 30 million listeners.

The reputation of the BBC world service has never been better. Mr Hague is from Yorkshire so what‘s happened to his Yorkshire nowse?

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.