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Happy Siblings Day 2017: Could you imagine life without your brother or sister?

PUBLISHED: 13:47 10 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:47 10 April 2017

Jeni Lawes pictured with her sister Rebecca when they were children

Jeni Lawes pictured with her sister Rebecca when they were children


Most of us cannot imagine life without our brothers and sisters, no matter how annoying they can be.

But today is the perfect chance to let them know how much they mean to you.

Jeni Lawes says her sister Rebecca is awesomeJeni Lawes says her sister Rebecca is awesome

Today is National Siblings Day - a day to celebrate the special bond we share with On April 10, people throughout America will mark National Siblings Day, recognising the special bond with our family members.

The annual event was founded by New Yorker Claudia Evart in 1995 after she lost her two siblings early in life in separate accidents. She selected April 10 in honour of her late sister, Lisette’s birthday and has even founded a charity with the aim of having Siblings Day federally recognised in the US. It is already celebrated in other countries across the world including India where it is called Raksha Bandhan – a Hindu festival which celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters, along with relationships where a similar strong bond exists even without the biological connection.

These special people often become our closest friends and most trusted advisors so we are bringing the day of celebration to East Anglia and have asked people to explain why their sibling relationships are so important to them.

Frances Vickerstaff remembers when her brother Richard was bornFrances Vickerstaff remembers when her brother Richard was born

Jeni Lawes, fundraising administrator and legacy officer at Break, Norwich

“My sister and I aren’t bff’s, we have different tastes in movies and music, but we’re mates; we go bowling, out for meals, and, most recently, try our hands at a clay taster with our mum.

“My little sis is awesome - I definitely don’t tell her enough - and in the past has put up with loads from me. I suffer from depression and anxiety which can result in panic attacks, and when I had some really bad episode a few years ago she was my ‘safe person’, bless her. During this time she agreed to come places with me because I was worried about going there by myself (perfectly safe, normal places I might add), and for a few years she even came to the Grand Norwich Duck Race to sit with me in the pub while I worked, just so I didn’t get overwhelmed with the idea that I couldn’t leave!

“My sister gives me the chance to escape if I need to - she, along with other people in my life, have helped me learn to live with my anxieties and quirks.”

Dan Knights and his sister when they were childrenDan Knights and his sister when they were children

Frances Vickerstaff, marketing and admissions manager at One sixth form centre in Ipswich

“I remember the day my parents brought my little brother home from the hospital. I wasn’t at all keen on him and asked when he was going back!

“However - after 27 years of having him around - I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am very protective of him and would do anything to look after him. However I am always keen to remind him I am the older sibling and what I say goes.

Dan Knights sharres a special bond with his sisterDan Knights sharres a special bond with his sister

“Richard has a great outlook on life and his sense of humour always makes me laugh, mainly at myself for the silly things I say and do.

“We have some fantastic shared memories of childhood and I am looking forward to all the new memories we will make in the future. As we get older I am reassured to know that whatever life throws at me he will always be there, to share in the fun times and see me through the rough.”

Dan Knights, dining rooms and events manager at Cinema City, Norwich

John and Liz Nice have both written about their experience as a siblingJohn and Liz Nice have both written about their experience as a sibling

“Having known each other for 27 years (soon to be 28 – where does the time go!) my sister and I have certainly had our fair share of ups and downs. But even during the most difficult of times there is always a silver lining – when we were 12 and eight respectively our parents separated, but one good thing that came out of this was how close it made the pair of us, allowing us to lean on each other for support and know that we would always be there for each other. Although we aren’t as close now as we were then (literally as well as figuratively) we still share a bond that no distance apart can break – even if she is planning to buy a house with an Ipswich Town fan despite my love of Norwich City!”

John Nice, press and promotions at Easton and Otley College/owner of Nice PR Ltd

“I love my sister [Liz] and brother [Jim] an indescribable amount. Growing up, my brother Mark passed away, so the fear that this might happen to another sibling is beyond terrifying.

Jack Edwards describes his brother Kenny as Jack Edwards describes his brother Kenny as " an absolute hammer legend".

“My sister was a mischief-maker when we were younger who enjoyed getting me into trouble. She influenced me greatly and truth is - she still does. She introduced me to Aha, Madonna, gymkhanas and Knots Landing before our shared love of football created common ground and the tide changed musically when I put her on to The Smiths. I’m incredibly proud of what she has achieved. She is truly a remarkable woman. From Oxford University to a fantastic career in journalism spending time in London, New York and now Norwich - her CV is inspirationally impressive. She is a mother of two boys, is writing a novel in her ‘spare’ time and I’ve never been more proud of her when I saw her completing the London marathon last year where she raised thousands in memory of our brother Mark.

“I love her for who she is, what she stands for, how she defends and sticks up for the people she loves but probably most of all, I love her for making me laugh hysterically at really silly things that remind us both of our carefree childhood lives.

“My brother Jim hates the spotlight so I won’t go on – suffice to say, he is an awesome brother, who cares a lot more than he makes out and he always – without fail - comes up trumps when it matters.”

Sisters Gaby and Izzy Botfield go horse riding togetherSisters Gaby and Izzy Botfield go horse riding together

Liz Nice, Archant group features editor

“My brother John’s birth is my earliest memory. I was two when he arrived and he was born at home so discovering him in the cot beside my parents’ bed that November morning was quite the surprise.

“I loved him from the start and never remember feeling jealous of the incomer, though apparently I used to cover him in snowstorms of talcum powder in a bid to ‘help’ which may have had slight ‘Whatever happened to baby Jane?’ overtones. I also made him do things like dressing up as a girl and walking to the postbox. He still hasn’t quite forgiven me for that one.

“I am fiercely protective of John and anyone who tries to hurt him had better watch out, as they will pay. He always tries to restrain me from taking revenge on his behalf however, as he is much kinder and nicer than I could ever be and ludicrously generous with his money. His lovely partner Jo told me once that she was stunned by how little he cares for material possessions. I fear this is because I helped myself to pretty much anything good he ever had.

Ellis Barker says her sister Henley is her best friendEllis Barker says her sister Henley is her best friend

“John and I used to fight like cats, until he got stronger than me and then I decided we were better off as friends. We have been ever since and remain as inseparable as ever, defending each other to the hilt, whatever we may have done, gossiping, playing the theme tune from The Littlest Hobo and doing impressions from The Dukes of Hazzard.

“Truly, there is no one whose presence makes me feel calmer. Nor does anyone love me quite as much as he does. I feel so lucky to have him as my brother.”

Jack Edwards, communications specialist at Break, Norwich

Steve Forster says he isSteve Forster says he is" inordinately proud" of his sister Jacqui

“I was six when Kenny was born. I’ll never forget the excitement of my dad waking me up and announcing that I would soon have a younger sibling. He was always a chubby, anxious little kid that hated school. We would always be hanging out together afterschool though, playing far too many video games and having sword fights.

“Now my chubby little baby brother is nearly 18, 6ft 2in, and built like a house. He’s my partner in crime, an absolute hammer legend, and my best friend.”

Isobel Botfield, advisor at Easton and Otley College

Andy Russell is an only child and says he always wished he had siblings.Andy Russell is an only child and says he always wished he had siblings.

“I love my sister because of all the fun we have when we go horse riding. 
“One of the most memorable moments was when Gaby was charging along and ended up having to hang around the horse’s neck whilst cantering. She eventually fell off but fortunately she was unhurt.”

Ellis Barker, EADT visual editor

“My younger sister is amazing because she’s my best friend. We’re like twins, only six years apart.

Martine Silkstone (third from left) pictured with her three older sisters: Maria, Miranda and Michelle. Picture: TERRI BRICE PHOTOGRAPHYMartine Silkstone (third from left) pictured with her three older sisters: Maria, Miranda and Michelle. Picture: TERRI BRICE PHOTOGRAPHY

“We do this thing where we’ll be trying to tell a funny story while laughing hysterically, yet we always know what the other one is saying even when everyone else around the table is clueless.

Anyway, my sister rocks. Love you Henley.”

Steve Forster, director at SFP Communications Ltd, Norwich

Martine Silkstone's brother MarkMartine Silkstone's brother Mark

“My sister is six years younger than me so the age gap meant we didn’t really become friends until she was in her early twenties but we’ve enjoyed a very supportive relationship since.

“In December 2015 Jacqui was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 10 months max to live but she’s still with us and making the most of her time, travelling as much as she can and working on causes she believes in. Her energy puts most people to shame. After many years working for Supporters Direct (an organisation that helps football and rugby fans to take a stake in their clubs) she recently launched ‘Women At The Game’ to encourage women to feel comfortable to attend spectator sports ( I so admire her positive attitude through it all and feel inordinately proud of her.”

Andy Russell, EADT motoring editor

Cathy Cookson celebrates the heart and kindness in her youngest siblings, Jake and LolaCathy Cookson celebrates the heart and kindness in her youngest siblings, Jake and Lola

“As an only child, how I wish I had had siblings. I envy anyone with brothers and sisters - it really irritates me when people say they don’t get on with theirs and bicker and squabble. They will never appreciate how lucky they are. As an only child you may get all your parents’ attention… but, equally so, you have no one to blame!”

Martine Silkstone, Archant writer

“I grew up as the youngest of five siblings and we have always been really close - quite an achievement when there is a 12-year age gap between youngest an oldest. We had the usual squabbles when we were little of course; I would steal my sisters’ clothes (and jewellery and make-up) and, being the baby, they were all forced to take me with them when they went out (sorry guys).

Matt Bagley says even though his best friend Sy wasn’t his brother officially, it did not stop him being officially the best brother possibleMatt Bagley says even though his best friend Sy wasn’t his brother officially, it did not stop him being officially the best brother possible

“In fact, through the years our sibling love survived sharing bedrooms, mum making our clothes out of old curtains, me tagging along on their dates and the four sisters invading our brother’s room whenever there was a thunderstorm. Bearing in mind we lived on a farm, it was basically a cross between The Waltons and The Sound of Music growing up - entertaining but exhausting.

“Now my siblings are, without question, my best friends. Whether ranting about a problem over coffee and cake, wallpapering a toilet while nursing children with chicken pox, laying bricks for an extension or cooking dinner when my husband is away, they are always there for me.

“We now have 10 children - and two grandchildren - of our own between us, and I hope we have nurtured that same sibling love in our offspring because that special bond guarantees a life of love, laughter and lively conversation.

“Maria, Mark, Michelle and Miranda - yes we are all ‘M’s - I love you all.”

Linda Louise Duan and her sister GraceLinda Louise Duan and her sister Grace

Cathy Cookson, owner of The Green Room Therapy, Brundall, near Norwich

“Being the eldest of six, siblings are something I know well! Amongst mine an artist, novelist, singer, Royal Ballet dancer, and budding choreographer, so much to celebrate in them all in their own way.

“For me however it felt natural to highlight the heart and kindness I see in my youngest siblings Jake and Lola, something that can be overlooked in society nowadays that holds huge value to me. I watch with pride as they continue to grow into such thoughtful, genuine people who do all they can for others with a humble kindness and that’s the stuff that will help change the world.”

Sam Papworth (far left) is raising money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance after his brother Tim (far right) was saved by the charity following a terrible accident in 2011. Picture: CLAIRE MUTIMERSam Papworth (far left) is raising money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance after his brother Tim (far right) was saved by the charity following a terrible accident in 2011. Picture: CLAIRE MUTIMER

Matt J Bagley, director of doing, Camouflaged Learning, Gressenhall, near Dereham

“I’m a deeply, deeply annoying person, so – understandably - my biological family and I don’t see each other very often. As a result, I’ve always seen my closest friends as my family, and of them, my very best friend and brother-from-another-mother, was Sy Rainsbury.

“Sy was everything I’ve ever wanted to be: funny, brave, useful and talented, and even though he sadly passed away over a decade ago, he still inspires me to this day, be that when I’m making tough decisions, or just deciding what to listen to in the car. I massively miss his idiotic jokes, his appalling waistcoats, and his ever-excellent advice, but most of all I miss having a big brother. Because, even though he wasn’t my brother officially, it did not stop him being officially the best brother possible.”

Susie Kelly doesn't know what she would do without her sisterSusie Kelly doesn't know what she would do without her sister

Linda Louise Duan, actor, Colchester

“I have a younger sister, Grace, and a younger brother, Sunny. I am the oldest and growing up my sister definitely looked up to me - I guess she still does now. When we were younger and I was using social media, she was really jealous and she would always try and join in when I was hanging out with my friends and I’d be like “go away”. But she is 17 now and I am 23 and it’s a really nice age gap. It’s more of an equal footing and when we are out together people just think we are friends. We have very different styles - she is into hip hop and that scene at the moment and I am definitely not - but growing up we liked the same music and I had a certain influence on her. She always comes into my room and steals my wardrobe and I steal her make-up.

“My brother is nine years younger than me and that’s a massive difference, so growing up I wasn’t as close to him because of the age gap. But now he is 14 and he is finding his personality and he asks me for advice on talking to girls and where to buy sunglasses and things like that.

Emily Silkstone says her brother Will is her best friendEmily Silkstone says her brother Will is her best friend

“I moved out for a few years - I lived in London and France - but now I am back home and I get to spend lots of time with them. My brother asks me for advice and I like to treat him to things. I took my sister to her first concert and I want to do the same for Sunny this year. I like to think I am the cool older sister.

“The one piece of advice I would give them growing up, as the oldest sibling, is ‘enjoy the ride - life will take you places’.”

Sam Papworth, Papworth Farms, Butchers and Graziers, Sheringham, Fakenham, North Walsham and Swaffham

Gina Long with her UK siblings, From left: David, Cherie, Gina, mother Margaret, Oliver and LizGina Long with her UK siblings, From left: David, Cherie, Gina, mother Margaret, Oliver and Liz

“I have had an older brother since the day I was born. We are two years apart but still to this day mixed up on occasion. We grew up on a farm where we fed, fought, played, schooled, rode, competed, worked and partied together for most all of our formative years, all with the keenest of rivalry.

“Ten years later our sister arrived on the scene. Tim can remember at the age of 14 pushing Charlotte’s pram with his girlfriend, and being accused of being far too young to be parents!

“When in different countries at university (Aberystwyth and Aberdeen) we visited each other’s colleges to watch rugby games and meet each other’s friends. We both came home to run parts of the family business. In fact it was not until Tim’s terrible accident in 2011 that there was ever a thought that he might not be there. Fantastically Tim pulled through, and is once again raising money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, which no doubt saved his life and kept a future for our perhaps not so ‘sibling rivalry’.”

To donate to Tim and his wife Emma’s Only The Brave run, visit and for more information about the event go to

Gina Long with US siblings Tara and JayDGina Long with US siblings Tara and JayD

Susie Kelly, Norwich

“Although very different characters, my sister and I are extremely close and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. The foundations of our relationship however didn’t start off as tightly-knit as you might think, as was perhaps demonstrated the day she knocked me unconscious with a garden hoe. I had stolen her bucket of snowballs and still carry the scar on my forehead as a reminder. Nevertheless, we’ve come a long way since and today can share a thought at the slightest glance, give hugs without reason and offer time without question.”

Gina Long with brother DevinGina Long with brother Devin

Emily Silkstone, 15, Suffolk

“My older brother Will is special because he has always been my role model and, while he’ll refuse to take this statement seriously, he is my best friend and means the world to me.

“He’s also great because we can cringe at things together (including this) and we send embarrassing Snapchat selfies to each other on a weekly basis.”

Gina Long MBE, Suffolk

Fundraiser and charity founder Gina says she was always proud to be part of a big family. The oldest of five siblings - Cherie, David, Liz and Oliver – she speaks warmly about a close and loving childhood spent at her family’s magnificent home, The Old Neptune, in Ipswich.

But her big family only grew further when she found she was part of her own ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding’ family, to use her own words, across the pond.

More than 30 years after starting to search for her American family, Gina found three more siblings JayD, Tara and Devin.

She recalls: “I have always come from a close family and I had an incredible life growing up. Then eight years ago, after three decades of searching, I found out I was related to an American / Greek dynasty and had three more siblings. It meant I was the oldest of eight brothers and sisters.

“One of the most incredible things after seeing a photo for the first time of my father, was seeing how much my American sister Tara’s son, Nikos, resembled my own son, Sam.

“But other parallels between the two families are equally remarkable, including our chosen careers and love of charity work and fundraising - my American family having their own charitable foundations.

“I feel so lucky as we all get on so well. The siblings are geographically quite far apart, living in England, America and Australia to name a few, but in one sense we couldn’t be closer – we even have our own What’s App group to enable us to speak every week.

“And the love and bond we have with my American family is like they have been part of my life forever. My mother Margaret often visits them in California too.”

Gina also paid tribute to the support she is getting from all her siblings as she prepares for her first London Marathon on April 23.

As all brothers and sisters do, she admits they teased her first about whether she would be able to complete the 26.2-mile route before quickly showing only full-blown love and support as she prepares to run for Sarcoma UK.

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