Award-winning The King’s Speech raises the profile of stammering in Lowestoft

As The King's Speech continues its reign over the awards season, a Suffolk man is hoping its inspirational story will help people closer to home.

Tom Hooper's critically-acclaimed film, which explores how speech therapist Lionel Logue helped King George VI overcome his stammer, picked up seven awards including best film and best actor for Colin Firth at the Baftas on Sunday. It now looks set to sweep the boards at the 83rd annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, but for John Thompson of Lowestoft it is raising awareness of the debilitating condition he has lived with since childhood.

The town's Marina Theatre has now extended the movie's run into March following an unprecedented demand for tickets. For the past fortnight Mr Thompson has been manning a special display in the foyer, offering support and information on stammering.

As well as material from the British Stammering Association, the Dominic Barker Trust, the Lidcombe Project, a therapy course for children, and the Maguire Programme, which was used by singer Gareth Gates, cinema goers have been able to pick up details on Mr Thompson's own support group for east Suffolk and Norfolk.

For more than half a million people in the UK, stammering is a daily source of frustration and a barrier to leading a normal everyday life.

Mr Thompson, of Dell Road, Oulton Broad, has been running a support group for people with a stammer in the east Suffolk and Norfolk area for almost five years.

Members, aged from 16 to over 60, meet once a month at The Rushcutters Inn, at Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich, and recently held an open day.

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'You do learn to cope but for some people with a serious stammer it can have a major effect on their life which they find hard to deal with,' said Mr Thompson.

'It's the everyday things that are more difficult such as going to the shops or to a pub or restaurant – things that most people take for granted.'

Marina theatre manager Martin Halliday said: 'Not a great deal was known about the issue of stammering until a few years ago when the television show Pop Idol featured Gareth Gates. Since then a lot more information and support has become available and the critically acclaimed The King's Speech has once again brought the plight of those living with the condition to the fore.

'We are delighted to be working with John and his support group to publicise the valuable help which is available both in this area and nationally.'

The King's Speech is being screened daily at The Marina until today. Due to unprecedented demand for tickets, there will be extra screenings until March 3. Call the box office on 01502 533200 for details.

While the stammering information display, open from 10am to 4pm and in the evening from 7pm, also ends today, anyone wanting more information or advice on dealing with stammering can visit: www.stammering.org.