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Anna Nolan: Brilliant Brian's got the talent to take Big Brother by storm

When I was a guest on Katherine Lynch's Wagon's Den this year, I was surprised by one thing. Not the total annihilation by the host Sheila Sheikh (right). No, that was expected and enjoyed. It was actually witnessing just how good Brian Dowling is as a presenter.

And his recent move to presenting this year's Celebrity Big Brother, on its new channel, Five, is proof that the Irishman's career is at last taking off.

He is Sheila Sheikh's side-kick on RTE 2's Wagon's Den, and to see him in action in the studio is impressive. He is spontaneous, professional and naturally funny. As wing-man, he holds himself back and lets her shine. But I could see that he is a huge talent waiting to burst on to the screens.

It's been a long time coming. Yes, he has done tons of telly -- from SMTV Live all those years ago, where he was a breath of fresh air alongside Cat Deeley and Tess Daly, to Brian's Boyfriends (a makeover show for men). But his non-stop appearances on reality shows made me wonder if he was ever going to move away from being a professional reality junkie. This summer, he is taking on one of the biggest television shows ever in the UK.

Davina McCall has had 11 years to perfect her performance on Big Brother. Whether it's whipping the crowd up into a frenzy, or having an intimate chat with a housemate she loves, Davina has been Big Sister for all the Channel Four shows, and she is some woman to replace.

So how on earth is he going to outdo Davina? As long as he doesn't try to mimic her in any way, he should be absolutely fine. It's Brian time, and he has the talent, the experience and the charm to make this show his own and bring his own career to the heights it deserves.

I'm sorry for her family but an early death doesn't turn Amy into a martyr or an iconic hero

SHOULD we have sympathy for someone who has thrown their life away?

Should we mourn someone who has been given a talent so amazing that they have an impact on millions around the world, but who wastes it?

Should we idolise someone who has brought pain and sadness to their family and loved ones, all because they couldn't say no to alcohol or drugs?

Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27. She was a global superstar, and she was addicted to drink and drugs.

The singer couldn't break what was a toxic noose around her neck. Her final performances were embarrassing, and she seemed to be losing her battle in front of our eyes.


I can imagine the state she was in as she was taking drugs -- desperate, lonely, insecure and terribly sad. Her need for drugs outweighed her desire to live a happy life. I can imagine the depths of despair she felt as she either inhaled or injected her drugs.

For all the good times she had -- the awards, the albums, the success and fame, she would have had a thousand more sad times. Sickness, depression, cold turkey, paranoia.

But why? Why be so selfish and cause utter pain to those around you? Why make your loved ones live their lives waiting for that call that says you are in hospital, or dead?

As Russell Brand wrote on his website, when he heard about Amy Winehouse: "When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call.

"There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they've had enough, that they're ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it's too late, she's gone."

Does this deserve sympathy? You bet it does. To have someone you love feel so dependent on drink or drugs is a living nightmare.


I have had several calls over the years with news about people I know who are addicts. Fortunately none of them have said the words "she's gone", but close to.

Today the people who those phone calls were about are well and fighting fit. They worked on their addictions, worked really, really hard and showed a strength of character that I can only admire.

It is possible to stop. There is help out there. Families and friends will help you, if you let them.

And by God, if you are hooked on some drug, or you feel that you cannot survive without alcohol, know that it can be done. And if you have tried before, just do it again. You can do it. I promise it is possible to live your life without that dark cloud over you. And your family won't have to get a phone call to say, "you're gone".

I don't hold Amy Winehouse up as a martyr, or in any way iconic.

She has not become some strange hero to me, because of her untimely death.

But I sympathise with her family and friends, who must be in terrible pain.