Leah Willersdorf, ACR, QRR2*, RPR, CRR
President and Media Liaison
Having served on Council since May 2011 and as President from September 2015 to September 2018, I remained on Council to advocate, promote and champion this timeless profession of ours, which I so dearly love, and also to continuously raise the standards of stenography in this country and, in fact, worldwide. I have been re-elected President for 2021/22. With 2021 marking my 26th anniversary of living in London and my 30th stenoversary just around the corner, I still love my career (and London) and the variety of the assignments I cover. The opportunity to travel the world in this career is an added bonus, not to mention meeting people constantly and making new friends along the way.
Georgina Ford, ACR, RPR, CRR, RMR
I began training in late 1989 having absolutely no idea what the job entailed, even after an interview lasting approximately three hours. I began the course, eventually gaining a speed certificate for 250 wpm on my Palantype machine at the IPS and receiving their Apsey-Haynes medal for the achievement. I honed my skills to be a realtime reporter and now after over 25 years, innumerable hearings and uncounted air miles later, I really can’t imagine doing anything else. In June 2018 I undertook and passed the American NCRA’s Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) examination – one section at 100%. In September 2018 I undertook and passed the American NCRA’s Certified Realtime Reporter examination.
Melanie Ball, ACR, CLR
I was educated at Victoria College, Belfast, and went on to obtain a BA (Hons) degree in Classics at Queen's University. Thereafter, I trained as a stenographer at the College of Business Studies. Upon leaving college in 1987, I moved to London, where I was based for the next 27 years. In my first year of work, I passed the Associateship and Membership exams of the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters and have been a member now for well over 30 years. Eight years ago, I returned home to N. Ireland but still travel extensively for work. For the past 33 years I have been working as a freelance stenographer in civil and criminal hearings all over the world, specialising for the last 24 years in real-time reporting, having obtained LiveNote real-time accreditation in 1996. I also have extensive experience in US depositions. Other types of work I am familiar with are arbitrations, medical inquiries, ecclesiastical inquiries, board and shareholder meetings, courts-martial, interviews, industrial tribunals, audio transcription, and I have limited experience of speech-to-text writing for those with a hearing impairment. I have been on BIVR Council since September 2020.
Alan Bell, ACR
I trained with JL Harpham in 1988 and worked in Newcastle Crown Court until 1995. I wanted to write realtime, or certainly broaden my career, so I applied to the BBC for captioning and was offered a position. However, I had also met Jenny Chandler in my trip to London and decided to take a position with Marten Walsh Cherer, which seemed closer to what I already knew. I worked for 20 years for MWC, covering a lot of patents and other court cases in the High Court, arbitrations, depositions, conferences, disciplinary hearings – and probably other things I’ve forgotten about. In 2014 I dipped my toe into the world of STTR work and enjoyed it very much, so by 2016 I decided to become freelance and worked for most of the year doing entirely STTR. I then shifted my focus a little and moved back to some of the more court reporter type of work. I have spent much of the last year travelling to the Middle East and India working on arbitrations and also covering depositions in London and further afield – even as far as Cwmbran!
Nicole Harrison, ACR, QRR1*
Council Member and past President
Elected President on 8 September 2018, I trained as a Stenographer in Texas and have been working in the UK (with the appropriate permissions) for many years. I first worked in court but then in the private sector. As a realtime reporter I attained BIVR's Qualified Realtime Reporter QRR1 status and am also a registered Verbatim Speech-to-Text Reporter with the NRCPD.
Sheryll Holley, ASTTR, QRR1*
Council Member, Past President
I trained with our superb Mary Sorene to become a Stenographer and Speech-to-Text Reporter/Captioner in the early 2000s. I have been working in the field of captioning ever since qualifying with the NRCPD in 2005 and work remotely and onsite. I have been married to Neil for 32 years and Neil has worked for the Royal Mint since his apprenticeship in the late 80s. We have 3 grown up children and 2 gorgeous grandchildren.
Ian Roberts, ACR
After I spent some time working on a local newspaper in the 1980s, a friend pointed out an advert for trainee court reporters. Not understanding the role he said, “You’ve done that sort of thing. It’d be ideal”. My knowledge was no greater and I applied. Shortly afterwards – it took until the interview – I discovered my mistake and decided to give it a go anyway. Almost a quarter of a century later, I’m still here and have worked in civil, criminal and coroners’ courts on many high profile trials and inquests, the House of Lords, public inquiries and conferences in the UK. Further afield, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to mainland Europe and beyond for conferences, international arbitrations, World Bank hearings and sessions of the World Trade Organisation.
Mary Sorene, ACR (Retired), CRI
Secretary and Treasurer
I began my working life on 1st January 1962, as a junior shorthand typist, then moving up the career ladder to become a secretary all the while attending evening classes to build my speed up to the required minimum 180 wpm before training (as a Pitman’s pen writer) at the Old Bailey in November 1971. I eventually gained 210 wpm in Pitman’s shorthand with the IPS and then retrained in 1988-89 on to the steno machine achieving a speed of 180 wpm on the machine. I retired from active reporting but continue to train stenographers. I travel all over the UK to train realtime stenographers for verbatim work in Speech-to-text or other work – wherever a verbatim record is needed. I was nominated and this year was the recipient of the prestigious Betty Willett Award. I have also been to Jersey as well as Nigeria, to train realtime stenographers for His Excellency Babatunde Fashola, the then Governor of Lagos. Many of my past students are now working as verbatim and/or STT Reporters. I have been a Certified Reporting Instructor since having attended, and passed, a course in Boston, USA, in 2008 run by the National Court Reporters Association, NCRA, of which I am a Participating Member.