The Mastery of Self-Expression – My Experience

Who are you?

I’m a speechwriter, with a yearning to be more involved in public life.

I was told by a friend (a graduate of Sandhurst officer training) that I should do The Mastery of Self-Expression weekend. It was the best workshop he’d ever done. I trusted him, paid the fee and showed up, without doing much research into what I was letting myself in for.

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A Quirky Christmas Present – A Christmas Commonplace Book

My love of speechwriting is very much connected to my love of learning languages. I studied French, German, Latin and Russian at school. An indispensable tool for anyone learning a language is a vocabulary book.

I had narrow green exercise books in which I collected words with their definitions, with some trite quotations copied in the back.

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How to write a Gaudy Speech

Every year famous people are invited to serve up life-lessons to a new crop of American graduates to fortify them as they enter the big world. The Americans are known for their ‘commencement speeches’.

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Address to the German Speechwriters in Berlin

On Tuesday 24 April 2018, I made a speech to German speechwriters at the 7th Tagung Redenschreiben in Berlin.

This was my second visit to the conference. Three years earlier I had visited as part of preparation for the European Speechwriter Network conference that also took place in Berlin.

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Festivity or foreboding?

Advent is here. It’s good news – peace on earth, good will towards men. But I remember the end of November for my feelings of unease. A countdown to Christmas, yes, but also, for us, the self-employed, a countdown to the tax deadline at the end of January.

Time to find the bank statements. Open up the envelopes of uncategorised receipts. Put the monthly figures into accountancy software.  And, most importantly, work out where to get the £2000 – £5000 to pay the tax man. And then another £500 to the accountant.

Not good news when we also have to pay for Christmas presents, parties and dinners.

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A Speechwriter eulogises a Speechwriter

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for Fred Metcalf.

Fred was a gag-writer and for many years the speechwriter for David Frost. The service took place at the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden. Afterwards there was an ‘open-mic’ and guests were invited to say a few words about him. Because the tributes were all from family and friends, (and Fred’s public life had been dealt with in the service), I decided not to deliver the speech. But I wanted to post it here:

I first came across Fred in a book.

It was Bob Monkhouse’s Complete Speaker’s Handbook.

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Is there a crisis in political rhetoric?

I’ve been asked to take part in an initiative led by university academics into whether there is a crisis in political speech. The group wants to encourage a better understanding of the theory, history, use and reception of political rhetoric in this country.

I’m not sure what I think about this. One rhetorical way to deal with this is to write down my thoughts.

Ever since I read the Heath brothers book Switch, How to Change when Change is Hard, I’ve been reluctant to get into the business of analysing social trends.

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