Confidence campaign to help stop ‘ginger’ bullying

Donna Strachan with pupils Chantelle Keenan, Jamie Collier, Chiara Morelli and Connor Finlayson. Picture: Scott Taylor
Donna Strachan with pupils Chantelle Keenan, Jamie Collier, Chiara Morelli and Connor Finlayson. Picture: Scott Taylor
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IT’s the ego-boosting workshop to stop youngsters being red-faced about their red hair.

Carrot-topped children are aiming to reclaim the term “ginger” as part of a confidence-building course designed to help them beat the bullies.

Run by Donna Strachan – a social worker who was teased mercilessly at school for her red hair and freckles – the workshop sees a string of flame-haired fictional characters talk about their experiences.

The primary school children, aged between five and 12, then create their own red-headed personalities on mugs, T-shirts, gym bags and puzzles.

Ginger activists have hailed the move, claiming the “light-hearted” approach might help redheads cope with any taunts they may receive later.

Workshop coach Ms Strachan, originally from Australia, told how her son, James, five, is now on the end of the same insults she received as a child.

“A lot of kids still get teased and made fun of for having red hair,” said Ms Strachan, who quit her day job to found her own Ginger Pride organisation.

“My generation certainly did. I got the usual names you get in Australia; freckle face, red-headed rat and carrot top.

“And so these talks are all about making sure the next generation of kids don’t have to go through the same thing their parents did.

“What the workshops do is to focus on drawing out those positive qualities in the children, who will then make their own design that represents this.”

Ms Strachan’s anti-bullying campaign comes one year after Canadian comedian Shawn Hitchins led a ginger pride march through Edinburgh to stand up to those that make fun of Scotland’s 650,000 redheads.

John Loughton, 27, renowned ginger and Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack winner in 2008, said the course would be a “much more effective tool” in tackling bullying than a flashy pride march.

He said: “For it to be taken seriously in schools you have to make it light-hearted, you have to make a few jokes, but you also have to put it in a context that’s relevant to children – because it’s also quite serious.

“Children need to be told that a physical trait should not mean they are an easy target for bullying, and that they have a right to feel safe when they’re at school.

“What I don’t support is someone who’s grown up being bullied say that they had a normal upbringing – because there’s nothing normal about getting bullied.”

The Ingingerness course is running at a string of Midlothian primaries this week including Cuiken, Mayfield, St Margaret’s and St Mary’s.

A spokeswoman for Midlothian Council said: “These workshops are a fun way of teaching young people the value of respecting others and learning positive attitudes.”

British gingers recently launched Red Head Day UK, on June 7.

‘No-one should be made fun of’

Actor Arron Usher has spent the better part of his life batting away snide remarks about his red hair and freckles.

But after years of ridicule, the 37-year-old panto star, right – who appeared on BBC comedy Don’t Drop the Baton – believes things are finally starting to turn a corner for Scotland’s redheads.

“I was bullied loads as a kid – not so much in primary school, but in secondary school,” he said. “I was always being called names like carrot top, although I argued back that the top of a carrot was green.

“I support any campaign to get into schools and tackle bullying head on. It sounds like something that will really help kids celebrate their differences, which is what we should be after.

“No-one should get made fun of just because they’re different – we need to be ginger and proud.”

nash.riggins@edinburghnews.com