GARETH Gates, who famously struggled with a stammer on his first TV appearance, is now helping youngsters with speech problems.

The Bradford singer has set up the Gareth Gates Stammer School, working with speech and language therapists.

“My speech is still a constant battle," said Gareth. "Speaking to strangers is my hardest challenge. As soon as I’m on stage and in character, I walk and breathe in a different way and I don’t have to worry about my speech. It’s very liberating. I’ve done a lot of work using specialist breathing exercises.

"On Pop Idol, the stammer helped me get noticed and made me stand out from the crowd - it was the first time it had a positive influence on my life."

He added: "My struggle has made me determined to help children who stammer. You can feel lonely and isolated when you’re young and have this problem, as I well know. That’s why I’ve set up the Gareth Gates Stammer School. I hope to show kids you can cope with a stammer, improve your speech and succeed in life.”

Gareth, who found fame on Pop Idol aged 16, said losing his voice three years ago was a “huge wake-up call”, leading to a lifestyle change. “My voice completely went performing a gig in front of 3,000 people. I was terrified I’d lost my voice forever," he said. “After treatment (an injection to a vocal chord under anaesthetic) I took six weeks off. For nearly two years, every time I opened my mouth to sing I was worried. I’d signed big musical theatre contracts so I had to keep performing, in between I’d spend all day not speaking to rest my voice. It was hell, the worst time of my life. I was quite depressed for a while. I’m so thankful that my voice is now fully recovered."

Gareth, 33, said his injury was caused by overwork and partying. Now he goes to the gym daily. And, he revealed, his image overhaul has included a recent hair transplant. "My hair started to thin, I was self-conscious. It’s been another boost for my confidence,” said Gareth.

After five No 1 singles, Gareth appeared in musicals like Les Miserables and Legally Blonde. He's currently "very happy" with his girlfriend, Coronation Street actress Faye Brookes. “She’s a fitness fanatic so we both live a very clean lifestyle. She’s as busy as me so when we get time together it’s very special."

On being a dad to eight-year-old Missy, from a previous relationship, Gareth said: “Every decision I make is based on the wellbeing of Missy. It’s why I’m so driven; ultimately I’m not just making a future for myself; I’m making one for her. She’s incredible and doesn’t have a trace of a stammer, which is a great relief.”

* The first two-day Gareth Gates Stammer School course is on January 27 and 28, 2018. Visit