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IOE project helping people to express what life is like after laryngectomy

23 July 2019

A UCL Institute of Education (IOE) project is set to provide laryngectomy and cancer patients with a voice to express their experiences of life after laryngectomy.

Saxophone resting on sheet music

The project ‘Outspoken Jazz: Still Growing’ is a collaboration between IOE academic Dr Evangelos Himonides, the Peter Edwards jazz trio, spoken word artist Bruce Sherfield and the charity Shout at Cancer. ‘Outspoken Jazz: Still Growing’ will give people who have had laryngectomy – the surgical removal of the voice box – the opportunity to take part in spoken word workshops to explain life following the surgery.

The lyrics that they write will be integrated into an empowering selection of jazz improvisations in a concert. The group will recite their work and take part in a selection of uplifting songs on the day of the concert.

The event will aim to inform the audience about the risks of throat cancer and the impact of this type of surgery.

The project, funded by UCL Performance Lab, builds on a previous collaboration between Dr Himonides and Shout at Cancer, called Beatboxing after Laryngectomy.

The project will allow the organisers to explore different techniques applicable in speech rehabilitation after laryngectomy, an area that has previously been untouched, while simultaneously providing the laryngectomees and voice specialists a chance to explore new voice production techniques.

Dr Himonides said: “The psychosocial impact of losing the voice is significant, affecting a person's professional and social life in a devastating way through loss of smell, altered taste, difficulty in swallowing, as well as the psychological, social and professional impact. Social isolation and depression are very common with laryngectomees. A problem they face when they do go out, is the negative perception which is mostly based on a lack of public education around this topic.

“With the new angle in this project we aim to engage participants, educate them, and create a stimulating and interactive environment to improve their voice and help them express stressful themes in order to overcome traumas and give them more confidence in finding their new balance in life.

“Using spoken word is a different approach to explore more subtle themes that chronic patients and their partners are dealing with, rather than a more direct traditional approach like interviews.”

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