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Singer Ann strikes a chord following stroke rehab

Ann Arscott
Ann Arscott (centre) pictured at Moseley Hall Hospital's Moor Green unit with clinical psychologist Sue Wright and speech and language therapist Leona Bramble.

Ann Arscott has sung all over the world and even offered a convincing impersonation of jazz legend Billie Holiday on peak time TV.

A trained opera singer, her vocal talents took her all round the world with renowned Birmingham acts like Andy Hamilton and the Blue Notes and roots reggae veterans Steel Pulse. She also toured internationally with the Old Vic production of Carmen Jones.

But in 2009, she suffered a sudden stroke during a normal working day at the Birmingham school where she taught music and drama, leaving her completely unable to speak. But, remarkably, she found that she could still sing.

Ann has received speech and language therapy (SLT) at Moseley Hall Hospital’s Moor Green outpatient rehabilitation unit since the start of 2011 and, slowly, the 48-year-old’s speech has improved.

“I remember trying to say something after the stroke and nothing came out,” she remembers. “I though ‘oh dear’ but, shortly after, I was singing to myself and realised I could still sing.

“I believe this happened for a reason – a stroke can affect anybody at any time of their life. I want to show people that there is a full, positive life to be lived afterwards.”

Ann’s speech has been affected by the condition aphasia – a common post-stroke disorder affecting written and verbal communication. Her verbal communication has also been impaired by mild dyspraxia, which affects the brain’s ability to transmit messages to other parts of the body.

Nevertheless, she remains very active, taking part in yoga, salsa dancing and amateur dramatics, as well as attending Moor Green four days a week.

Speech and language therapist Leona Bramble explains that the ability to sing is controlled by a different part of the brain than that which governs our speech – the area most affected by Ann’s stroke.

“Ann’s positive attitude is an inspiration,” says Leona. “She is highly motivated and very keen to share her experiences with others – and her wonderful singing!”

  • BCHC speech and language therapists are supporting the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ Giving Voice campaign, which aims to demonstrate how SLT makes a difference to people with speech, language and communication needs, their families, and wider society.