Spa Speakers

Martyn Tilson – The Story of Spa Speakers

Martyn Tilson, former area governor and founder of Spa Speakers

Dear Members

We have a very very special article for you. Founder of Spa Speakers Martyn Tilson has been kind enough to write an account of how he set up our club back 2004. We owe Martyn a big thank you for leaving us the legacy of such a great club.

The Spa Speakers Committee




Joining Toastmasters

I joined Toastmasters in 2002 when my nearest local club was Bardwell in Oxford: a 100 mile round trip. Somehow or other I found myself elected President for the 2002 – 2003 year, which although daunting was a huge opportunity and one that I gained great experience from, as well as a number of long term friends and a great deal of fun.

A Special Assignment

For the year 2003 – 2004 I was asked by the late, greatly missed Paul Holmes to be assistant Area Governor, with particular emphasis on establishing a new club in the Leamington Spa area. My first action was to choose a potential venue. This turned out to be easy as I was a volunteer at the Helen Ley house, and the round lounge was an obvious and attractive venue. I was fortunate at this point to be offered the assistance of Marina O’Callaghan (President of Oxford club when I was President of Bardwell). From this point on, the success of the club was assured. With Marina’s tenacity, organisation and extensive contacts, the demonstration meetings were well organised, well supported and had great speeches including an Icebreaker from a Heart of England club member.

Making the Launch a Success

We were fortunate that the publicity we had driven from networking, the press, online channels, and by word of mouth not only elicited a large number of visitors, but attracted many of the vibrant, interactive and friendly members that the club has become renowned for. After the two demonstration meetings, we had our first official meeting on 24th March 2004. Prior to the meeting we had reached the requisite number of members to apply for charter; the first of many unique achievements for the club and a wonderful 50th birthday present for me. The club’s first year was successful with an active committee lucky enough to have Carla Alves Da Silva as Vice President of Education at its core.

A Very Distinguished Track Record

Since then, despite many changes in personnel, the club has gone from strength to strength. Not yet 10 years old (2014 will be a special year), four of the founding members have gone on to become Distinguished Toastmasters. Among our members we have had four Area governors and two Division Governors, a District Table Topics champion and other District competition finalists, Presidents Distinguished Club since year 1, co-hosts of a District conference, multiple winners of the area pantomime competition (oh yes we were) etc etc etc.

Most importantly it has helped countless people to overcome their fears and polish their communication skills while having an unexpected amount of fun.

All of this has only been possible because of the membership. Spa members have, from the beginning, been an eclectic mix with one common thread. Warmth, vibrancy and friendliness combined with a thirst to learn.

Many Reasons to be Proud

I am glad to have played a part in founding a club that will always be one of my proudest achievements. The fight to try to save Helen Ley as an MS Respite care centre and subsequent family illness and commitments have meant that I have been somewhat of a stranger for the last 3 1/2 years. Something I hope to remedy in 2014 but throughout I have been kept in touch by various members and friends.

Of course the initial, selfish, point of creating a local club to cut out the 100 mile round trip was a complete failure as I went on to become Division E Governor, covering the south coast of England, north coast of Scotland and the west coast of Wales(!) The richness of experience and friendship that comes from such things is something I cannot recommend too highly to every member.

And yes that includes you – you are perfectly capable.

If I can, you can.

Martyn Tilson
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