My Suffolk

Well known for her role as Jo Portman in the TV series Spooks, actress Miranda Raison is patron for the county’s largest family support charity, Home-Start in Suffolk

How long have you lived in Suffolk?

I grew up in a village in North Norfolk but when my parents separated my father moved to the Suffolk coast so my brother and I spent alternate weekends and half of our holidays here. We were only five and three when they separated so Suffolk has always been a big part of our lives. My father grew up in Theberton, near Leiston, so for him coming back to Suffolk was really coming home.

What do you love about Suffolk?

I find both Norfolk and Suffolk incredibly beautiful but to me Suffolk was always the ‘cosier’ of the two. We sailed a lot as children and as my father ran a shop in Aldeburgh from Monday to Saturday we were pretty much left to our own devices and there was always lots to do. It was sort of a ’see you at supper time’ sort of deal which wasn’t untypical for children growing up in the 80s and early 90s, but everyone knew everyone in the village so there was always someone who would tell Dad if the Raison children were up to no good. I still love the coast, the woods, the people and the old Suffolk architecture a great deal.

Tell us about how you became involved with Home-Start in Suffolk.

A family friend who is an ambassador for the charity asked me to be involved at the beginning of last year. It was a great privilege to be asked to be a patron and the Home-Start in Suffolk gang have been a pleasure to work with.

It’s been an extraordinary year for many organisations, how has COVID affected the charity?

Like many charities, Home-Start in Suffolk has had a challenging year as a result of the pandemic but they have done an amazing job rising to the challenge. Face to face home visiting support had to be paused overnight and a new support model using telephone and video calls was introduced to ensure families still had access to the support they needed from the incredible volunteers. The pandemic has also seen a rise in the number of referrals coming through with even more families needing the support of Home-Start. Sadly, fundraising activity has been impacted heavily too. The popular Moonlight Ball had to be cancelled as well as a lot of smaller events which meant the team had to create online events to help raise funds. There was an online art auction and online cocktail party which are both set to return in the summer this year and they are currently working with a number of Suffolk Primary Schools on the Character Creations Competition. This is a Primary School literacy project aimed at promoting a love of reading and encouraging children to engage with books and be creative. I was delighted to be involved in it alongside fellow Home-Start in Suffolk Patron, author Anthony Horowitz.

How can the local community help Home-Start in Suffolk in the months ahead?

There has been a big campaign recently to recruit more volunteers to ensure that the charity can continue to cope with the level of need across the county. This has generated a great deal of interest but there is always a need for more volunteers. Full training is provided so if anyone is interested in joining the amazing team of 270 volunteers then they can get in touch with Home-Start in Suffolk to find out more. Of course if anyone wishes to support the charity in other ways, whether making a donation, booking to attend one of their events or taking part in their online auctions and raffles, then I know the team would be grateful of any support. The website has all the details of how you can get involved!

Have you managed to get out in the Suffolk countryside in recent months? Where do you most enjoy exploring?

We have been very fortunate in having so many places on our doorstep to explore and visit. We are both on the coast and very near woods and forest so we haven’t had to look far to find things to entertain our daughter and to keep us all well exercised. It’s amazing how much entertainment finding some woodlouse under a bit of bark can provide!

Have you had any lockdown projects?

We speak both French and English at home and have raised our daughter in a bilingual household which has given us a lot of pleasure. Having discovered the joy that fluency in another language at home brings I have been working hard to become a fluent rather than ’school girl’ Spanish speaker… I’m getting there! Work has also been consistently busy throughout the pandemic for which I am very grateful. Both the filming and voiceover sectors of my industry have adapted incredibly quickly.

Are you looking forward to eating out again? If so where will you be heading?

Our favourite restaurant in Suffolk is the Butley Orford Oysterage but we have completely ruined it for ourselves by going vegan in the last year! Hopefully we’ll discover some vegan places soon.

If you could choose one picture to sum up Suffolk for you, what would it be?

I have a wonderful painting of a marriage proposal on Aldeburgh Beach painted by my late aunt Jen Raison. She painted the Suffolk Coast a lot, usually with her wonderfully badly behaved dog, Rusty, featured somewhere in the picture and her paintings fill me with joy and childhood memories.