A Bristol cafe owner who has stammered since the age of five is hosting an event on Saturday evening to support others across Bristol and the South West who stammer.
“I started stammering when I was very young, maybe around five years old. At school, I had a pretty bad experience of bullying,” says Josh Bowker, who opened Milk Teeth on Portland Square in St Paul’s earlier this year.
Alongside the day-to-day challenges of living life with a stammer, Josh feels the most significant issue is the amount of ignorance associated with stammering.
“A lot of people don’t really understand it,” Josh told Bristol24/7 over coffee in his cafe.
“Quite often you would be talking with someone, and stammer, and they would just laugh in your face. Not because they’re being rude, just because it’s a shock to them.”
Josh grew up not knowing much about the stammering world, previously having lacked much contact with others who stammer.
In this way, he sees the event on Saturday organised by The British Stammering Association (BSA) as an opportunity for himself to learn more about other people’s experiences with stammering.
“One of the main things people often think is that people stammer because they have a nervous disposition, are afraid of people, or generally lack confidence. And that’s just not true,” Josh said.
“I can be at home, completely relaxed and then the next minute I’ll stammer.”
Describing himself as an extrovert, Josh has always been drawn to customer-facing hospitality jobs. “I think it definitely helps to push me out of my comfort zone, to not feel trapped or like I’m hiding behind anything. It helps me feel more comfortable with who I am.”
Drawing on the challenges that he has experienced over the years, Josh has some key advice to others who stammer: “I’d say feel the fear and do it anyway. By that I mean, just put yourself out there, do things that scare you, and it’ll really help you develop more confidence.”
The BSA event, ‘Stammering: Experiences, Insights and Celebration’, takes place at Milk Teeth on Saturday, September 9 from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. There will be discussions, a talk from BSA chair Tim Fell, and Q&As with Josh and other stammerers.
To find out more about the event, visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stammering-experiences-insights-and-celebration-tickets-36722700586