Pride of Britain Awards: Carol Vorderman tells of her autism heartbreak

Carol Vorderman is back to host the Daily Mirror’s Pride of Britain Awards. It tells us what to expect from the celebration night.

Carol is the smiling face of one of the most poignant and moving nights on the show business calendar.

And for the first time since the pandemic, she returns to the stage to personally honor the unsung heroes of the nation at the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB.

In the run-up to the award ceremony, she spoke of her personal experiences with autism – and of her “heartbreak” that “thousands” of children have been waiting for years to be judged.

After 22 years of awarding the prizes, this time Carol has a co-host – Ashley Banjo, director of the Diversity dance group.

“I think it’s wonderful that Ashley is co-hosting,” says Carol. “He represents the best of modern Britain. I went to I’m A Celebrity in the jungle with his brother Jordan … and have known diversity ever since.

“I can’t think of anyone better to hand over the awards with me than Ash, because he’s not only a great entertainer, but also a very deep thinker and is committed to this great responsibility.”

Celebrities and public figures such as Prince Charles, Ant and Dec, Anne-Marie, Ed Sheeran, KSI, Harry Kane, Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, Jordan Pickford and Sharon Stone are among the participating stars.

Here Carol, 60, reveals what to expect from the glamorous event in London’s Grosvenor House.

What makes the show so special?

It’s the heart in it and the fact that most of our winners have gone through hell and come out the other side. This is not always the case, unfortunately some still go through hell.

Some of our children are no longer with us, some of our brave children. The pain is real and the triumph is real. We see that. Even if we kind of disguise it with glamor and famous people and all that. The stories are pretty raw. When you look at it, it touches something inside you.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

The absence of the event last year gave us a small chance to look back and I think you will see that this time around a generation is changed and I love that.

We have the new environmental award, which I have been campaigning for for 30 years. I think I was one of the first journalists to talk about climate change in the 80s and that’s brilliant. So it’s basically still the Pride Of Britain Awards, but it has this new flavor.

How did you experience working with Ashley?

I’ve worked with Ashley Loads. In the jungle, Jordan talked a lot about Ash. I always asked: “Who is your hero, Jord?”. I used to call Jordan my son because he’s about my son’s age and he was talking about Ash the whole time and I was asking him questions about Ash.

All I can say is that I really admired when they performed their so-called “controversial” dance (diversity referred to the murder of George Floyd in America in a British Got Talent performance last year that sparked record complaints at Ofcom). It’s a modern view, and it was her view, and it was good for her. They came under fire for this, but they stuck with it and they are so successful and they are such a decent family and they work hard.

Ash has the biggest heart. He feels responsible for everyone who works with his company. He’s a wonderful person, Ashley.

Have there been any special hosting moments over the years?

There are a few, if I looked at them all there would be more. But from the start there was a wonderful woman, Alex Bell, who had adopted seven children with Down syndrome over the years. Many were older, but they still lived as families.

She was on the stage and I said ‘we have a nice surprise for you, here are your kids’ and they came from the back of the room and the noise was amazing.

Everyone was on their feet, cheering and shouting. Her elder read this poem to her and I was completely stunned.

I mean where do you go from there? The love to see was extraordinary because there was no filter. They knew that this woman loves these young people so wildly.

What is the hardest part of the presentation of the award ceremony?

It takes about three hours on stage and there is no stage manager so I’m alone. Not only do you need to know everyone, but also their history and the names of everyone in their family. You also need to remember who came with you and which moderators are coming.

Everyone’s story is so different. It’s not like other awards shows. The Pride Of Britain Awards are different.

You have been suffering from Covid for a long time. How are you now?

I have always taken care of my health, but I have improved it. I hugged it turning 60 and think it is
my time. I am very grateful for everything I have done over the years and now I like to focus my time and money on helping others.

If you could, who would you give a Special Recognition Award to?

Well, I’ve been talking about my son and his special educational needs (son Cameron, 24, has high-spectrum autism and recently got a Masters degree). There is a lady, Daphne Hamilton Fairley, who started a school called Fairley House decades ago because of the lack of care and budget cuts for children with severe learning disabilities like my son.

It’s heartbreaking. Thousands of stories from kids waiting for years to be rated and even though they didn’t get their rating they are treated the same way, which is appalling because they are not.

Then when they are evaluated, many tell us nothing is happening and I know the budgets have been cut, and I mean cut. So that’s something very special for me.

Is it hard not to get emotional during the awards?

Yeah, it’s really hard. What I do is get so familiar with the stories and I meet everyone before and it is on my mind that this has to be the best night of their life.

  • The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in association with TSB, will run on ITV at 8 p.m. on Thursday

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