Growing up in Stoke, I had a very clear ‘Stokey’ accent. When I was at primary school, members of my extended family suggested to my Mum that I have elocution lessons ‘to help me get on in the world’. My Mum refused – she had a Stoke accent too and felt personally offended by their suggestion, but also because she knew that speaking differently would lead me to be outcast at school and in my community.

As it happened, we moved twenty miles away when I was ten years old and despite the short distance, the kids in my new town did *not* speak like they were from Stoke and eventually my accent was bullied out of me. Look, book, cook and mispronouncing ‘th’ soon became something that felt wrong.

By the time I attended university most people assumed I was from the South as I had adapted my accent so convincingly.

It’s interesting now, as I feel like an accent chameleon – I easily pick up words and pronunciations from others (my partner is from Hampshire and I now regularly drop the ‘h’ from the start of words). This regularly leads to humour amongst friends and family, though it makes me sad as I realise that my own accent identity is so weak that I automatically adapt to ‘fit in’.

Scottish Claire

I have noticed in the last 20 years (I am nearly 53) regional accents become a lot more acceptable. I got ridiculed for my (not that strong but distinctive) Scottish accent in London in the eighties and also at uni in Edinburgh. I hadn’t met the very rich before that and it was a shock. I was into drama but after feeling isolated among the RP speakers I didn’t return to a group and stopped acting altogether. They seemed to think that anyone with any kind of regional accent was extremely poor and lower working class. There was a clear class divide at the university.

As a student at school I was mocked by the more strong accented kids (in Fife) and told I had been sent to elocution lessons by my mum which was incorrect. There seemed to be a thing about talking as broad as possible to avoid being called a snob (inverted snobbery). I have been told several times I sound like Kirsty Wark and am happy with this. I now live in West Yorkshire and have adopted some of that dialect but never lost my Scottish accent.