November 12, 2011 1:23 am

How to give it: Jane Hill

The BBC newsreader which supports several charities tells why Stonewall and Parkinson’s UK mean the most to her

Jane Hill, 42, is a BBC newsreader. She supports several charities, among them Parkinson’s UK and Stonewall, which campaigns for equality and justice for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The latter will be particularly active next week in support of Anti-Bullying Week (www.stonewall.org.uk/antibullying).

Which cause do you feel most strongly about?

Stonewall and Parkinson’s UK mean the most to me. My father and his brother both died of Parkinson’s disease. I try not to dwell on what this might mean for me and my brother. Parkinson’s UK provides a ton of information for sufferers and carers and has helped the huge leaps forward in treating the disease. I’d never appreciated how much charities do in healthcare. If, God forbid, I’m ever diagnosed with anything serious, the first thing I’m going to do is get in touch with the relevant charity and say ‘what have you got, who should I be talking to’?

Why do you give to charity?

I can’t not. The reasons are different for Parkinson’s and Stonewall, but I believe in what they both do. Also, meeting people is so humbling. Through Parkinson’s UK I’ve met so many fantastically forward-thinking people who really make you glad to be alive.

Should celebrities use their fame for good causes?

I’d always thought you had to have a very high profile to be useful to a charity, but I’ve found that if I can chair a conference or similar, then it’s a big benefit. I’m not Madonna, but by being just a little in the public eye I’m useful to them.

So I wouldn’t want to judge people who don’t, but I feel that I have a duty to use what little fame I have, partly because I have no children, therefore [I have] more time.

Is a charity like Stonewall still needed in the west?

Hugely. The legislative stuff – civil partnerships, prejudice protection – is very strong now, largely thanks to Stonewall, but I still think it’s about hearts and minds. It never ceases to amaze me that there’s still such a huge amount of playground bullying based on sexuality. Children still say very commonly: “That’s so gay”. You wouldn’t let a child say: “That’s so black, or that’s so Jewish”. That sort of terminology has to be stopped.

Does the BBC have a duty to promote an ethical message?

Our duty is to represent the UK in all its forms. Class religion, colour, disability and so on. We’re not here to promote a message; we’re here to reflect society.

We’re a long way from the “we’ve got to tell the nation what’s right” approach.

Do you give change to homeless people?

Yes, I’m more likely to give to a woman than a man. I feel a woman living rough is more vulnerable than a man, but maybe that’s wrong. Maybe it’s self-identification, thinking it could be me.

howtogiveit@ft.com

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