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'Big Brother was abuse - of course it was. But we signed up for it. We were vain and desperate for attention'

Big Brother, which aired for the first time 20 years ago this summer, was essentially a documentary on what we are going through right now. Donal Lynch looks back on the series, the Irish stars that made it and the lessons it taught us for lockdown

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Anna Nolan became known as the “lesbian nun” on Big Brother back in 2000. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Anna Nolan became known as the “lesbian nun” on Big Brother back in 2000. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Brian Dowling

Brian Dowling

Ray Shah

Ray Shah

Jade Goody

Jade Goody

Anna Nolan became known as the “lesbian nun” on Big Brother back in 2000. Photo: Gerry Mooney

If you ever wanted a snapshot of how suffocating the lockdown has become, consider the answer of Anna Nolan, the Irish star of the original series of Big Brother, when asked if she'd care to reminisce on it. "At this stage, if you wanted me to sing the theme tune and wear a chicken outfit, I would, just for social contact," she says. 

You know things are bad when it's getting rough for someone who once spent 64 days and nights cooped up with 10 strangers in the full glare of TV cameras. Anna, after all, is able for levels of claustrophobia that would kill an ordinary mortal. She is, all things considered, better equipped to deal with a pandemic than Kate Winslet in Contagion.

While some of us are struggling to put up with our parents or partners, Anna dealt with a group of fame hungry randomers, some of whom were "more irritating than you can imagine".