Preston activist Jack Dinsley on his Be Kind Stammer campaign: “People are still being bullied because of their stammer in 2021 and that’s embarrassing"
A primary school teacher once told Jack Dinsley’s mother at parents’ evening that he wouldn’t succeed in life because of his stammer.
“School was hard,” says Jack. “It was difficult to have teachers isolate me and not pick me to answer questions in class because of my speech. Small things like that build up.”
Thankfully, Jack has made a habit of proving people wrong.
Born in Kirkham, Jack is now a fiercely passionate stammer activist with a degree in journalism from UCLan who has appeared on BBC Newsround, BBC Radio 1, BBC Newsbeat, and BBC Lancashire.
With one in 100 people in the UK living with a stammer, he is ardent in his determination to shout his message of support from the rooftops and raise awareness of stammering across the board.
First diagnosed with a stammer at the age of five, Jack was initially unable to access speech and language therapy. Having previously grappled with his speech impediment alone, it wasn’t until a teacher in Year 5 - a teacher who herself had a stammer - resolved to help that he was given bespoke support.
“That was the first time in my whole education that someone taught me to embrace who I was by helping me with things like breathing techniques,” says Jack, 21. “Suddenly, my school reports mention how much better my speech got and how much more confident I was.
“That was down to having someone understanding what I was going through.”
As is the case for most kids, high school was not without its trials and tribulations for Jack, however.
“High school can be a lot for anyone to cope with but, on top of my stammer, I also had problems coming to terms with my sexuality, which was difficult,” he explains. “There was a lot of pressure and, by college - when I was doing four A Levels, was in all the school productions, and was head boy - my stammer reached an all-time low.
“I took it upon myself to seek out speech and language therapy, which really helped because I had an hour each week to talk to someone who cared about my stammer,” Jack adds. “It was like counselling.”
In his second year at university, Jack noticed a distinct lack of awareness around stammering and resolved to do something about it.
He pitched stammering-related content to the BBC and landed placements with BBC Newsround and Loose Women and, off the back of that, was approached by a primary school teacher in Huddersfield who wanted him to speak to her students about stammering.
In January 2020, he launched the Be Kind Stammer campaign and has gone on to speak at various primary schools, colleges, and universities.
During lockdown, he moved his life-changing activism online, even sharing his message internationally by appearing on an international panel for Friends Who Stutter, the association for young people who stammer in the USA, alongside fellow panellists from Italy, South Africa, China, Brazil and India.
“A speech impediment shouldn’t hold you back; the only thing holding you back is society,” says Jack, who is currently studying for an MA in TV Production. “This interview shouldn’t really need to happen, but people aren’t kind, which is really sad. But working with the kids has been brilliant; when lockdown came, I knew there’d be so many kids who’d need us.
“It’s been phenomenal; to get messages from strangers about how we’ve helped is amazing,” he adds, having also been nominated for the Positive Role Model (Age) Award at The National Diversity Awards 2021. “People are still being bullied because of their stammer in 2021 and that’s embarrassing.
“Times need to change and there’s nothing special about me apart from the fact that I want to make that change.”