Helping Give Back A Little Dignity
The Daily Record 27th May 2004

Through her charity work, Deacon Blue and River City star Lorraine McIntosh is helping those who struggle to help themselves Exclusive

HER band's best-known song tells of a man striving for dignity in the face of adversity, and keeping his dreams of a better life alive. But these days, Deacon Blue singer Lorraine McIntosh isn't content with just singing about dignity she's determined to help some of the most vulnerable people in society have some of it themselves.

The River City actress, who plays recovering alcoholic Alice Henderson in the BBC Scotland soap, has precious little time to spare in between playing Alice and playing mum to the three children she has with husband Ricky Ross.

But what spare time she does have, she devotes to enriching the lives of those less fortunate than herself.

And tonight Lorraine aims to raise 50,000 for Enable, the Scottish charity for people with learning disabilities, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary.

She'll team up with husband Ricky at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall to perform with Deacon Blue, belting out their classic album Raintown from start to finish.

And despite having appeared in acclaimed flicks such as My Name Is Joe and Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself, Lorraine confesses it was working in drama groups with a team of youngsters with learning disabilities that left her with no doubt about the profound benefits of acting.

She said: 'About two years ago, I was asked to lead a wee group of young people with learning disabilities, as part of a campaign giving them the right to sex education, and the right to make their own decision about all areas of their lives, including their sex lives.

'To be honest, that was the first day in my life that I had given any thought to people with learning difficulties.

'I realised that one of those young folk could have been a child of mine, a brother of mine or a sister.

'And I thought how brilliant it was, here they were out managing their own lives, using public transport, spending the afternoon working on this very moving, touching drama they'd come up with themselves.

'It made me very appreciative that this charity existed, and I thought, one day one of us might know someone who has to use it.

'I realised how important Enable is because years ago, these people would probably have been stuck in some awful home, out of the way.'

Despite playing with Deacon Blue in front of thousands in stadiums and festivals across the world, Lorraine admits she was wracked with nerves when it came to meeting with some people who use the charity.

She confessed: 'I got very nervous at first. I felt very unsure and awkward about it.

'I used to worry about speaking to people with learning difficulties because they're very honest, and they might say something suddenly which could be taken as being inappropriate, and I never knew how to deal with that.

'You feel so self-conscious and, worry about using the right terms and the right language when you're speaking to them that sometimes you worry about sounding like a tube, really.

'So I had to overcome that, and once I had met the people at the group, I felt at ease very quickly.'

Lorraine is a patron of Enable's befriending scheme, which encourages big-hearted people to devote time to some of society's most vulnerable individuals.

She explained: 'The aim is to support people with learning disabilities who are managing to live in communities, but who are bereft of friends.

'Often they just don't have the network to make friends, but would benefit so much from having someone to go to the pictures with a couple of times a month, or out for a coffee with now and then.

'It raises people's self-esteem no end. 'I think loneliness in society is a big issue anyway, but it's a much bigger issue for people with learning disabilities.

'I was recently involved in making a promotional video for the charity, and on it there's an example of a man who is very well-known in his community, but who talks about spending Christmas Day on his own.

'It's so desperately sad, and there are lots of people who, if they only knew, would gladly open their homes to someone like him on Christmas Day. I know I would.'

Lorraine claims that her work as a celebrity supporter of Enable helps keep her grounded.

She admitted: 'We can become completely obsessed about ourselves, especially in this business we call show.

'So it's very important for me to take a step outside, and meet someone whose life is different from mine. It puts your life into perspective, and it makes you realise that your life is actually very, very small.'

Lorraine also devotes time to befriending local asylum seekers near her home in the southside of Glasgow. But she's not using her celebrity status to help promote their needs.

She said: 'This has nothing to do with being well-known, this is just something I wanted to do as a normal citizen.

'When I met the asylum seekers that I'm friendly with now, they had no idea I was in a band, or that I was on TV.

'None of them had the faintest idea who I was. I just wanted to make friends with some people who found themselves living nearby and not knowing anyone.'

BUT rather than keeping her private life and her public profile separate, Lorraine threw open the doors to her home to support her new neighbours.

She explained: 'Very sadly, one of my friend's babies died, and the funeral left from our house.

'When you've been in the public eye, you want your home to be this private sanctuary, but we discovered it kind of helps if you open the door and let people in.

'You realise it's not as frightening as you thought it was, and it's actually a really nice feeling. It makes you realise how good it is to share something you have with people.'

As well as the reciprocal benefits of her time spent with Enable and local asylum seekers, Lorraine hopes it will lead her children to grow up with open minds.

She said: 'When my kids are a bit older, it will present great opportunities for them, too.

'Exposing them to people they don't come across all the time demystifies things for them, whether it's asylum seekers or people with learning disabilities or whatever.

'These people have an awful lot to give to folk who let them. I know they've brought a lot to my life.' Paul English