An interview with Claire and Duncan Goose, the search for 'One Big Idea'

It's a thrilling start to the year for the Goose family, with actress Claire and her brother, charity entrepreneur Duncan, both delighting in their new babies and the search for "One Big Idea".

Brother and sister with big ideas

It’s a thrilling start to the year for the Goose family, with actress Claire and her brother, charity entrepreneur Duncan, both delighting in their new babies and the search for “One Big Idea”. Angi Kennedy spoke to the inspirational Norfolk pair.

So many people pay lip service to their love of Norfolk, but for Claire and Duncan Goose, their passion for the county runs deep and true.Their Norfolk backgrounds – and their beloved late grandmother – are part of the inspiration that has set them both on glowing career paths, each with a desire to help others in need.The brother and sister, who grew up in the west of the county, where their parents still live, are also now looking forward to doing their utmost to ensure that their own children enjoy something of the Norfolk childhood they loved.

Actress Claire, famous for her roles as Tina Seabrook in the BBC medical drama Casualty and Det Con Mel Silver in the gritty Waking The Dead, is currently on maternity leave from playing Sgt Rachel Weston in ITV’s long-running police series The Bill.Her first baby, Amelia, was born in September and Claire and husband, producer Craig Woodrow, are determined that their daughter will spend plenty of time in the county too.“I loved growing up there, and I think of our childhoods and feel rather sad that Amelia won’t have that same sort of freedom that we did,” Claire tells me. “We had a beach hut and all our holidays were spent up there. I think that’s why Heacham beach still has a massive pull for me, and is why I want to take her up to Norfolk as much as possible.”And Duncan feels the same. He has been excitedly looking forward to the arrival of his first child, due in January, with his Italian wife, Dr Marta Boffito, who is one of the world’s leading specialists on HIV.He smiles: “I am very much aware that my life is about to implode! We ‘had custody’ of Amelia the other weekend for a try out – I changed my very first nappy!”

But until the arrival of his baby, Duncan has been frenetically busy, travelling around the country to promote his One Big Idea project, a concept that he hopes will uncover new and wonderful suggestions to help solve some of the world’s humanitarian problems.If that sounds rather ambitious, remember Duncan is the man who dreamed up the One Water scheme which has helped more than a million people in Africa and raised over �3 million through the sale of bottled water.

The One brand now includes condoms – every packet sold funds HIV tests for three people – with toilet rolls and hand sanitisers about to be launched that will fund sanitation projects in developing countries.“The One Big Idea really came out of the concept of having the One brand, a product that has a strong connection to a humanitarian problem.“It is such a simple concept,” he says. “I think most people in life have some great ideas but are not sure how to go about making them happen. So we want to make it easier for people, just give them an opportunity.“We will open up our business, our skills and development, and then listen to these ideas. It could be a really simple idea, yet be a life-changing one. I really believe that we can look at any problem in the world and create a One solution to solve it.”

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Already around the country there are many individuals, schools, businesses and organisations working on suggestions for the One Big Idea project, which closes on February 12. Duncan will then team up with Duncan Bannatyne and Doug Richard from BBC TV Dragons’ Den and two other heads of business to judge the submitted ideas and choose the winners. Using the experience he has gained in the past five years since the launch of One Water, Duncan hopes to turn the ideas into real working projects.

One Water, famously, grew out of a conversation in the pub back in 2003 when Duncan and a group of friends met up to watch the Grand National. One of the party mentioned reading an article in which it said that a billion people around the globe didn’t have access to clean water and that many died as a result.Duncan was spurred into action by this, and subsequently gave up his job as the director of a marketing agency in London to set up Global Ethics Ltd, which launched the One not-for-profit water brand.Any money raised goes towards buying roundabout PlayPlumps – the beauty of the ideas is that while the children play on the roundabout, they produce energy to pump water from bore holes for whole communities, some of whom previously had to walk for many hours to collect water.

The brand had an excellent launch pad, being chosen as the official water of the Live8 event in Hyde Park by organisers Bob Geldof, Harvey Goldsmith and Richard Curtis. It was soon being drunk by celebrities like Robbie Williams, Brad Pitt, and former Dr Who David Tennant.It has been a challenging but immensely fulfilling journey since then for Duncan, who ploughed all his savings into the brand and remortgaged his house.

 But if ever he considered giving up on his dream, seeing how the money raised was helping to change lives in Africa was the incentive he needed to carry on.“Running this business is the best and worst job in the world,” he says. “You can never do things often enough or big enough.“Every time we sell a packet of condoms we fund three people to have an HIV test. Yet I know a little boy called Umpi, who is 10 years old, out in Africa. He had done nothing wrong in the world, yet he had HIV and his parents were dead. To have him die when we know we could have saved him... I take that very personally.”Duncan’s first taste of humanitarian work came when he was caught up in the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch that struck Honduras while he was on a two-year motorcycling trip around the world between 1998 and 2000. He set  up a programme with fellow travellers and raised enough money to rebuild 13 villages. He has also supported a community in the Peruvian Andes, near Macchu Picchu, building 30 toilets and providing educational materials and clothing “For my 40th birthday, my wife took me to Uganda to a former child soldier camp,” he says. “We don’t do traditional holidays! It was an eye-opener for me; we spent some time in a refugee camp, which I had never done before. And I was so proud of my wife, watching her working out there – she is amazing.

“I am so lucky to have been able to surround myself with people who have the most interesting ideas in the world, who want to make changes and help others. I spend most of my time saying thank you; which is one reason I wish I had more time, as there are so many more people I would like to thank.”

 Among them, of course, is his sister, Claire, 35 this month, who is a stalwart supporter of her brother’s work. She is now looking forward to seeing what comes out of the suggestion box for the One Big Idea.“It’s really exciting,” she enthuses. “I hope that people will get on board, because it is just a great concept. You never really know what sort of things people will come up with and that’s what is so thrilling. To be honest, it all moves so fast with Duncan nowadays that I can hardly keep up with him anymore.

“He has won so many awards and it is fantastic that the business gets acknowledged for what it is doing. Duncan loves the work because something is always developing and changing all the time; there are constant challenges.”Her involvement with One, as a trustee and ambassador for the brand, is not the first charitable work that Claire has undertaken. She was patron of the EDP’s Breast Cancer Appeal, which raised �200,000 to help transform breast care facilities at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.The appeal had struck a chord with Claire, both as a doctor’s daughter – her father is retired GP Dr David Goose – and as someone who had experienced first-hand the shock of discovering two suspicious lumps in her breast. Fortunately, tests revealed they were not cancerous, but it left Claire, then in her mid-20s, keen to spread the message about the importance of women checking themselves regularly.In her support for One, she was also keen to understand the issues for herself, and has visited Africa, where she has worked with the Red Cross and Oxfam on awareness campaigns which have involved travelling to Mozambique, Cambodia and Ethiopia.So how did Claire and Duncan become so driven in their work and lives? She believes it has a lot to do with their upbringing in west Norfolk where their family was based, with relatives around the Wisbech and Fenland area too.“I think that Mum and Dad always made us believe we should try anything,” Claire comments. “If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t matter – but it is better that you try and fail at something than you never have a go.

  “Our late Gran, my mother’s mum, was very much an inspiration to me. She worked for Unilever and did an awful lot for charities. She was a truly inspirational woman – especially for someone of her generation, when women were not expected to go out to work.

 Her name was Vera Allington and she lived in Downham Market, where she filled her days with charitable work. I always remember she supported Barnardo’s children and every year there was a party for them.”Norfolk played a leading role in the romantic lives of both Claire and Duncan. Her wedding was at the King’s Head in Great Bircham, on the fringes  of the Queen’s Sandringham estate in December 2007. She met her husband on a blind date following her split from Casualty co-star Jonathan Kerrigan in 2001.

And Duncan chose Holkham beach to propose to Marta, who he married last May. “My wife absolutely fell in love with Norfolk and I proposed on the beach – although I had to carry her across the river to get there! It is such a special place and we love getting up there every weekend that we can.”Returning to Norfolk, after the birth of Amelia, was very special for Claire. “My parents were thrilled – she is the first grandchild, so my Mum and Dad are beside themselves with excitement about her, and Mum just wants her all the time.“It was great to get some lovely Norfolk fresh air, and it is really nice for my parents to spend time with Amelia, and for all my aunts and family to see her.

“She is absolutely brilliant. The first month was pretty horrendous, but I am really enjoying her. She does a lot of chattering at the moment and she is coming on in leaps and bounds.”When we speak, Claire has plans to take Amelia in to the set of The Bill to introduce her to her fellow actors and  the rest of the TV crew. “I am on maternity leave at the moment, which is really rare in the acting profession, but luckily I was on a contract to The Bill, so I got leave,” she explains. “At the moment though I couldn’t imagine going back to work, but once she is more settled and in a routine I am sure there will come a time when I feel ready to work again.”

She had a scare early on in her pregnancy when she was rushed in to hospital with severe stomach pains.  With that worry, and the birth now far behind her – and with her daughter safe in her arms – Claire is determined to enjoy every minute of these early days with Amelia.“She is just gorgeous – even in the middle of the night when I have to get  up to feed her, I look at her and she is just so absolutely beautiful that it melts my heart.”

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