Come with us to a special Christmas Carol service at Westminster Abbey

December 21, 2023

In early December, guests of Speech and Language UK were invited to attend a special Christmas Carol service at Westminster Abbey. 

Below, our guests Steve Hermon, Roisin and Ellen Dormer and Jenny McConnell share with us their experiences on this momentous occasion.  

Steve Hermon outside Westminster Abbey

Steve Hermon is a news and sport journalist and has worked in newsrooms across the country. His most important role, he tells us, however, is as a parent. He has two children and his youngest, Eddie, has speech and language challenges and Autism. Throughout 2023, Steve took part in some major fundraising activities for Speech and Language UK, raising much needed funds. In December, Steve was invited to Westminster Abbey for a Royal Christmas Carol. Steve told us:   

“At the beginning of 2023, I knew I wanted to do something to raise money for a cause close to my heart and Speech and Language UK was the perfect charity, as we’ve seen what can happen when children receive support to help them find their voices.

“Our son Eddie, who is now 8, was first referred to speech and language therapy via the NHS, just before his 2nd birthday. Unfortunately, the resources available through this route aren’t enough to meet demand and that’s why Speech and Language UK is such a vital charity in supporting not only children, but also parents, carers and schools.

“Thanks to generous donations, I raised almost £4,000 by doing 4 running events throughout the year, including my first ever Half Marathon at the Great Birmingham Run in May. The support I received from people within the speech and language therapy industry was phenomenal and definitely inspired me to keep going through all the training runs!”

“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would end of the year sitting in Westminster Abbey at a Christmas Carol Concert, hosted by the Royal Family.

“It was a surreal experience given the historical events that have taken place there, particularly in the last few years alone, but it was very heartwarming to be sat amongst a select group of people, who’ve done their bit to support children in their vital early years, in the UK. It truly was a privilege to be invited by Speech and Language UK and something I will never forget.” 

Ellen Dormer at Westminster Abbey

Roisin Dormer and her daughter Ellen are active campaigners raising awareness of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). Learn more about DLD here.

Roisin said: 

“The Royal Carol Concert at Westminster Abbey was a wonderful event that Ellen and I were privileged to be invited to and take part in. It was both an honour and a humbling experience that our work with Speech and Language UK in raising awareness of DLD and highlighting the difficulties young people face has been recognised. It was a lovely feeling to experience gratitude. 

Our daughter Ellen has DLD and her speech and language challenges continue to have a massive impact in her life. Since Ellen’s diagnosis our aim has been to raise awareness of this lifelong condition as in all of the 8 schools and colleges and 7 workplaces Ellen has attended not one person had heard of DLD. We have tried to bridge this gap alongside Speech and Language UK by sharing Ellen’s lived experience to raise awareness of the impact that difficulties in communication have in everyday life whilst highlighting simple strategies that can make a massive difference to the young person’s learning experience. Ellen has raised awareness through her poetry, online videos and a poster campaign. 

At the Royal Christmas Carol Concert, we were both made to feel so welcome and for once Ellen really did feel visible and like she mattered. Ellen walked tall and shone in her red coat and it was lovely seeing her smile again and watching her being visibly happy! People from all walks of life spoke with us and we were fortunate enough to be seated in a prime location for people watching! We were both able to relax, sing and soak up the atmosphere in the spectacular surroundings of Westminster Abbey which was a fantastic ending to a challenging year. We look forward to watching the concert on Christmas Eve with the rest of our family.” 

Jenny McConnell outside the carol service

Also, present was Jenny McConnell, Principal of Dawn House, a Speech and Language UK school in Rainworth, Nottinghamshire, who was invited to the Abbey in recognition of her dedication to supporting children and young people with speech and language challenges. Jenny told us: 

“I was so proud to celebrate thirty years of working for Speech and Language UK at the ‘Together at Christmas’ carol concert at Westminster Abbey. It was a real once in a lifetime experience!” 

The Princess of Wales introducing her annual carol concert; ‘Royal Carols: Together at Christmas’ on @itv and @itvx at 7.45pm this Christmas Eve.