“The Show’s Not Called ‘Big Sister’”

Matthew Rudd interviews Cameron Stout

First published April 2005

When Big Brother 4 began in earnest in 2003, OTT covered it meticulously, with week-by-week reviews and analyses until the finesse ‘n’ fireworks of the finale, when Orkney fish trader Cameron Stout, the house’s senior contestant, was declared the winner. Recently Cameron happened upon the site and its reviews and, having contacted us to offer his thanks and comments, agreed to speak freely to OTT’s main correspondent during BB4, Matthew Rudd.

OTT: You started your audition tape with a view of the Orkney coast. Did you see your rather secluded home as an advantage in trying to get on Big Brother? Did you suspect you might be seen as a novelty?

CAMERON STOUT: People never know what kind of individuals Big Brother is looking for in a particular year. I wasn’t the only Orcadian applicant by any means, so I don’t know if that played a significant part or not. I do love Orkney and I think the sunsets are amazing. I suppose I tried to show where I’m from as it has contributed so much to what I’m like.

OTT: We first saw you as you stepped out of the limo – what’s it like in the car as you make the journey?

CAMERON STOUT: The only time I was nervous about going into the house was the 10 minutes before I actually went in. My nerves started in the “holding room” as it was announced we were ready to go. Once in the car I could see another one identical in front, and it’s odd arriving at the house – the only thing I could think of was the unknown “everything” that lay ahead; the person in the car ahead of me, the other housemates, the tasks, Davina, the house itself, wondering if I would see anyone I knew in the crowd. It’s a real jumble of emotions during that short hop.

OTT: Big Brother contestants are usually wannabes, masochists or ego-trippers wanting to climb a showbiz greasy pole. Which were you? If none of them, just why did you go on?

CAMERON STOUT: I definitely don’t fall into any of the categories you’ve named there. Like I said, applying for Big Brother started out as a bit of fun and things escalated from there. It’s one of the most frequently asked questions, and I still have trouble answering it. The psychologist, in one of the final sessions, said that I was “an enigma” to them, and they couldn’t figure out why I wanted to take part in the programme. Really the only explanation I could come up with was that I am a huge fan of the concept and it always looks like fun. At the time it felt like an inadequate reason, but on reflection I think it was reasonable enough!

OTT: You weren’t so much an outsider, but certainly nobody else was like you in many respects. Did you feel you had to conform at all in the early days to be accepted?

CAMERON STOUT: All the housemates in Big Brother 4 were individuals – I don’t think any of us was any less unique than another. I think at the outset we were all keen to show ourselves in the best light, as we would do in a normal, real-world setting. Early on, when Jon asked if anyone was “religious”, I suppose the easiest way to conform and be accepted would have been to say a flat “no”. As it was, declaring that I was not religious, but a Christian, could have resulted in rejection from the group.

OTT: On the first night, when you realised you’d be nominating people on first impressions, did you feel guilty?

CAMERON STOUT: It came as something of a surprise! I had said on my forms that nominations were what I was looking forward to least, and people really don’t realise how tough nominating your fellow housemates can be. I spent nine weeks feeling guilty about selecting Anouska, partly because she was such a gem during the first week and not at all how she appeared that first night, and partly because I had no idea that several other people had nominated her too. I feared it was possible that she had only received one nomination and that had resulted in her eviction. I’m in touch with Anouska who has happily told me not to worry about it, so that helps too.

OTT: As Jon continued to survive eviction for three weeks in a row, did it occur to you that he was really popular, or did you just think the others were not popular?

CAMERON STOUT: Again, it’s true to say that people don’t believe or understand how certain things are perceived in the house. There is little knowledge and (apart from the result itself) certainly no evidence of how the public is thinking and sometimes evictions throw up a surprise result, particularly if someone you didn’t nominate is voted out. There is a division in the voting public – on one hand people vote out the person who they find most irritating, conversely, many people vote out the person they find most boring, or who contributes least to life in the house. This division is one of the most fascinating aspects of the Big Brother phenomenon and is probably the one which creates more debate than any other.

OTT: Justine, one of those evicted from the house when up against Jon, got a lot of criticism for her “big I am” actions after she left. Did you see that sort of irritant aspect in her when she was in the house?

CAMERON STOUT: I thought Justine was great in the house – she was very funny and I enjoyed her company a great deal. People react differently to each situation – Justine was out of the house before me, so I don’t know what she was like after leaving. I have met up with her since and she’s great fun and has mainly been dedicating herself successfully to charity work. If Justine was guilty of “bigging herself up” I’ve not seen any of it.

OTT: When the first three evictions were female, did you think there was gender bias in the voting like the surviving female contestants did, or was it just coincidence?

CAMERON STOUT: This is something that is always discussed at length, but as I’ve said, it’s usually impossible to discern (at least from inside the house) why someone is voted out. It did start to make us wonder about what proportion of the viewers were female, but you can start to over-analyse things and become paranoid! I know it shows me on the DVD saying something like: “They have no chance against us – the show’s not called ‘Big Sister‘,” but that was said completely in jest and in absolute innocence.

OTT: Jon always said he knew he was out when put up against you and Federico. But how confident were you about staying?

CAMERON STOUT: I have always been surprised at that! I couldn’t believe it when I was told about Jon discussing it with Federico in the boys’ bedroom. On the night of the double eviction, I had been into the diary room saying that I wasn’t sure whether I would prefer to stay or be evicted; I could see the upside to either outcome. Once Federico’s name was called, I completely relaxed and assumed that I would be next out, as Jon had avoided eviction every week until that point. It came as a shock when Davina shouted Jon’s name and I felt very odd. I went back to the diary room, still not sure whether I was glad I had stayed in, or if I would rather have got out to see my friends and family. I was not at all confident about staying in against either of them, but particularly Jon, based on his track record.

OTT: Why did you not appear more confident of success after seeing off both Federico and Jon?

CAMERON STOUT: Every week is unique and as a housemate, you never know how you are being perceived on the outside. Jon’s departure was such a shock that it became clear anything could happen in a given week. I think it’s true to say that on a personal level I’m much less confident than I am on a professional level.

OTT: Steph – did you ever think there could be a romantic future?

CAMERON STOUT: Neither of us did, I’m certain of that. From the outside I think there’s always a hope that a romance will develop in the house, and certainly Paul and Helen have proved that it can happen. Steph and I valued each other’s friendship and had a lot in common but would never have advised Davina to go and buy a hat.

OTT: Did you suspect that your friendship with Steph was being scrutinised on the outside?

CAMERON STOUT: Gos sometimes commented on the fact that he thought Steph and I got on particularly well, but as for suspecting what people on the outside thought, it never crossed my mind. It’s great being in the house, because you really are unaware of the outside world for the vast majority of the time.

OTT: When you saw Scott and Nush getting close, did you feel their friendship was akin to that of yours and Steph, or did you observe something potentially deeper developing?

CAMERON STOUT: I’m pretty oblivious to that kind of thing, even in real life. I didn’t think there was anything in particular “developing” between the two of them, although we all knew that they were very friendly. One of the main differences in the perception of housemates’ relationships is that, unlike the viewing public, inside the house we are not party to any of the spin and hype that surrounds our behaviour.

OTT: When choosing all bar one of the contestants to join you in the Reward Room, did you leave Nush out as a tactical move, figuring she was most unlikely to hold a grudge?

CAMERON STOUT: No, no! That’s certainly not the case. The reason I thought that Nush could handle being in the house by herself was that she could enjoy a relaxing bath, read a book, have a nice evening dip in the pool and generally pamper herself. I also told her where to find my stash of Orkney fudge! I was certain that Nush would make better use of “time to herself” than Tania would have.

OTT: Tell us about Tania when she got impossibly drunk in the Reward Room during the gourmet evening. Did you feel awkward for her? Were you tempted to step in and try to calm her down, or did you see her actions as something which had little to do with you?

CAMERON STOUT: I wish I could see the footage of that night, because I don’t recall Tania being “impossibly” drunk. However, even though I’ve come in for a slating for “allowing” Steph’s over-indulgence in daiquiris to take place, I wouldn’t have stepped in with Tania. Thankfully responsibility of that kind lay with Big Brother – at least in my opinion it did. If things had gotten out of hand before Big Brother intervened, I’m sure the group at large would have come to some sort of alternative plan.

OTT: The journey to South Africa – were you allowed to do anything except sit on a plane? Did anyone speak to you?

CAMERON STOUT: Big Brother, a chaperone and a cameraman, as well as a flight attendant and crew were on the plane but even the flight attendant had to ask Big Brother whether I would like a drink/meal/etc and not speak to me. When landing at each refuelling stop, we had to close all the blinds in case I saw something I shouldn’t. I could speak to Big Brother, and one of the chaperone’s main “jobs” was to chat and believe me, I had the loveliest chaperone! Obviously nothing about Big Brother or the outside world could be spoken about. We played a lot of cards and watched a couple of films – didn’t sleep a lot during the 18 hours!

OTT: OTT claimed that you wouldn’t have won BB4 in “pre-South Africa” mode. Do you agree?

CAMERON STOUT: I have heard that said. I’m not sure if it was solely the South Africa trip that caused me to open up a bit more, as it usually takes me a fair while to come out of my shell and get to know people anyway and I think that had started to happen during the week before the BB Africa trip. I can see why OTT thought I wouldn’t have won if I had stayed shy and reserved. I don’t think the trip was as significant as some people make it out to be.

OTT: Was Lisa really an outcast, or was some of the treatment of her more unwitting, and down to the rest of the group’s paranoia?

CAMERON STOUT: We always said that whoever came into the house late would have a tough time settling in or “being accepted”, and were convinced that our feelings were roughly 80% in response to the situation and 20% to the person. Certain aspects of Lisa’s personality made it harder for her to integrate than, say, Gaetano who was also a late addition (people at that time didn’t know if he stood a chance of winning the UK show) but certainly we attributed Lisa’s being an “outcast” more to the situation than to Lisa herself.

OTT: Did you ever worry that when you didn’t join in with the others’ drinking and flirting that it would go against you with the public?

CAMERON STOUT: I was never influenced by worries about the public’s perception of me while I was in the house. I find it odd that some people choose to concentrate on one or two occasions when I didn’t drink and make a big deal of that. I’m not teetotal, as I’ve often been portrayed. I realise that this may sound odd, but because we normally had very little shopping budget and therefore not a great deal of alcohol, and because I don’t mind not drinking, I often had less to drink than the others but still enjoyed the “craic”. Folk often call me a flirt, but I think in bigger groups I tend to sit back and enjoy the fun rather than be the centre of attention, at least until I feel I know people well enough.

OTT: As the “elder statesman” of the house, as OTT described you, did you feel responsible for any of the younger housemates?

CAMERON STOUT: I always thought we were on an equal footing in the house, which was a great relief. I think I’m a good listener at times and have quite a responsible outlook but I wouldn’t say I approached any of the housemates with that attitude. Big Brother did ask me to make sure Steph was okay the night she’d had one too many daiquiris in the reward room, but any of us would have been glad to help any of the others.

OTT: Jon suggested you had built a relationship with the others on a basis of false naïveté, when in fact you were an “international businessman”, as he put it, and not a quiet Orkney fisherman who had limited social experiences. Was he justified?

CAMERON STOUT: As I’ve said, I’m often more confident in a business environment than I am on a personal level. I described my job accurately with no hint of trying to cover up what I did or how much I travelled for business or pleasure. It’s interesting that Jon thought along these lines only once he was out of the house, and I think the press was more to blame for painting an inaccurate picture of my career than Jon was of misinterpreting an Orcadian’s straightforward modesty! Some people speak more than they listen but I’m not generally like that. I love hearing about other people but can be reticent when it comes to speaking about myself.

OTT: OTT said that you had your “Africa gleam” on when Jon suddenly walked back into the house, but how much of that big smile was really hiding fear of what he knew?

CAMERON STOUT: It was definitely a surprise to see Jon reappearing, particularly dressed the way he was. Because I viewed Jon as an adult, and because I had given relatively simple and straightforward reasons for nominating him, I had no reason to fear anything that he would have come to know, indeed that never crossed my mind. In addition, I thought that if all the evicted housemates had been given the chance to come back in, knowing Jon, he would have given it the most thought and would give his all to a second chance. A family member said he thought my reaction to Jon’s reappearance was the only time during the programme that I hadn’t shown my true feelings – when I queried this, he said, “Well, how could you have been pleased to see him after all he said about you on the outside?” I think this further illustrates the difference between being cocooned in the house and taking people as you find them, and being subjected to the spin and conjecture that surrounds everything that is said and done by housemates. I was genuinely pleased to still be there and part of a new twist that Big Brother had presented us with.

OTT: Did Ray ever scare you?

CAMERON STOUT: Not at all. I’ve even racked my brain to see if this question alludes to some event in the house but have drawn a blank.

OTT: Well, maybe his actions when inebriated? His assault on Nush, monstering of Steph and especially his threatening diatribe at Scott, his closest ally in the house.

CAMERON STOUT: I’m sure if any of us had been concerned about another housemate’s behaviour – drunk or sober – we would have made our feelings clear to Big Brother. Ray and I got on well in the house, and particularly well in the latter weeks. If I had ever been worried about his actions I would have done something about it. I can think of one particular incident which was definitely a case of “you had to be there” to fully understand it – even some of those present at the time had no idea what was going on. Imagine how much harder that can be through a TV screen.

OTT: The famed “secret” – did you wonder, once you’d mentioned you had one, whether it was worth the fuss?

CAMERON STOUT: It certainly was not worth any fuss, and as soon as I had mentioned it I thought I should have just kept quiet! I told Big Brother as much, that it was a pointless, trivial, nonsense piece of information, and so it was.

OTT: You were accused in some quarters of homophobia at one point, after stating you believed relationships were about “wives and husbands, not husbands and husbands”. Does this view make you homophobic? If not, what does it make you?

CAMERON STOUT: I can understand why that view may be taken by some as homophobic, but I don’t believe that that one element alone can make someone a homophobe. Among my gay friends there are many who disagree with the concept of gay marriage. I think labels are dangerous – I’m as guilty as most for labelling and categorising people although I do try to see others’ point of view with most things. I may not agree with the other point of view in certain cases, but I do make an attempt to see where the other person is coming from.

OTT: With the best will in the world, if you’d been a viewer of the other 12 (this includes Lisa) and not an actual housemate, could you say whom you would have enjoyed watching?

CAMERON STOUT: Not having had a chance yet to watch much of the footage, I just had a look at each of the housemates’ “best bit” clips on the DVD. It’s really hard to narrow down, but I would say I did enjoy the bits with Scott, Sissy, Ray and Federico. It’s very strange watching clips like that – it brings back so many memories.

OTT: In the last week, all four candidates were talking down their hopes of winning, so tell us about when Scott left and you were down to the last two. Is this the point where you can at last decide you really want to win?

CAMERON STOUT: In the same way that I thought I would never beat Jon on the double eviction, I was sure at that late stage that Ray would be the winner of Big Brother 4. The way I looked at it was that he was a loveable rogue; good-looking, stylish and with a six-pack – all things I wasn’t! It’s true to say that the majority of BB4 housemates did not participate with the aim of winning the money, more so to genuinely see what it’s like to go through that kind of unique experience. I always said it would be great to win, but that I didn’t have high hopes for it. I suppose it reinforces the notion that you never know what will happen.

OTT: And when your name was announced …?

CAMERON STOUT: When Davina announced my name I think it must have been quite overwhelming – I say I think it must have been, because I actually have no real recollection of that part of it at all. Ray was a very gracious second place winner – there was not a split second when he resented not coming first and that’s something that I still admire, because there is nothing worse than sour grapes.

OTT: When you look at the Diary Room comments about you, can you accept that they were not malicious?

CAMERON STOUT: I’ve not seen a lot of it, but as a group we often looked at nominations very pragmatically, reassuring one another that nominations were something we had to do and whatever was said should be taken in good spirit. Even then, some of the nomination days were a bit of a marathon, with housemates spending agonisingly long periods of time in the diary room. It’s odd because in a way you treat the diary room chats as somehow more confidential and one-to-one than daily life in the house, when I’m sure there are occasions that there’s infinitely more chance of those chats being broadcast than general house goings-on. I’m a very straightforward and honest person, so I can imagine that certain things said in the diary room could have come across as harsh, and I know that some people have apologised to one another for things that were said.

OTT: BB4 was panned by the critics for being too lovey-dovey. Do you think, however, there was more tension than people on the outside could see?

CAMERON STOUT: Certainly there are aspects of life in the house that can never translate through a screen, whether it’s an odd look or a funny comment, or just how someone is feeling towards somebody else on a particular day – a great deal of it depends on the circumstances of “being there” at the time. I have to say too that certain of the “analysts” are way off beam when it comes to presenting supposed facts about housemates and their behaviour.

OTT: Aside from all the personalities, differences, spats etc within the house, what was the place itself like? Did it feel like a home at all? Can you ever wake up there and not immediately think “I’m on TV”?

CAMERON STOUT: The house was a fantastic place to live, and many factors contributed to it being an enjoyable experience. It was a very spacious and comfortable environment (apart from the aircon in the boys’ bedroom not working) both inside and out, with stylish furniture and equipment and a definite feeling of “cool” about it. It was all the more relaxing bearing in mind we had no mobile phones, no TV, newspapers or internet and let’s not forget we had no pressure of work while we were there. If a home is where you can relax, be yourself and enjoy the company of friends, then it was definitely home to us for the period. One odd thing about the BB4 house was that there was only one window – the large patio doors between the living area and the garden. No others existed, just mirrors everywhere. After the initial shock of being there, we soon settled into a pattern of life that proved we were not conscious of being viewed all day every day. Even though I had a camera above my bed, it just became a piece of equipment in our house, not something that we were paranoid about. One of the hardest things for people to understand and believe is that housemates very quickly forget about the cameras and their purpose (I mean BB4 housemates – I can’t speak for other years).

OTT: Have you spent the money?

CAMERON STOUT: The two main things that I spent the prize money on were my brother’s new bathroom and a new piano for our church. The bathroom cost considerably more than the piano! I’ve been earning since coming out of the house and haven’t found a lot of time to spend, but once I have my new garage built, there’s going to be a classic Porsche going in it.

OTT: Have you met Ellen McArthur yet?

CAMERON STOUT: Sadly, no. I sent good wishes while she was on her record-breaking trip earlier this year and I would definitely like to meet up with her sometime!

OTT: How’s your mum coped with it all?

CAMERON STOUT: Mum and Dad have both enjoyed all the carry on and I think may be a bit bewildered by it all, never having watched Big Brother in the past. I must say that, sadly, we’ve not had much chance to actually discuss what happened and all the things that went on while I was in there, but I’m looking forward to the day that we can all sit down, relax and have a good chin-wag about it all.

OTT: You’ve done panto and a bit of radio but we’ve not been bombarded with Cameron Stout in “media tart” mode. So what stage are you at now, career-wise?

CAMERON STOUT: Again, the producers go to enormous lengths to let potential housemates know not to go in for the wrong reasons – seeking fame being one of those. I’m having a great time. I didn’t manage to have a whole week off during 2004 and the diary is looking healthy for this year too. The best thing about it is the variety of things that happen – there’s always something new and interesting to try. I learned early on that it is pointless being reluctant to try new things because so much of it is such great fun. Two of the things that I was most nervous about were the wing-walk for the charity DEBRA, and presenting a BBC series about issues affecting teenagers. I’m delighted that I did decide to do these, and other things I was nervous about! I write a fortnightly motoring column and a weekly news column and have regular bookings for speaking engagements and other events. I’m currently working on a couple of television projects and will be back on BBC radio in May. I was in the gala launch of a musical called Blude Red in the autumn, and there are high hopes to take the production on tour in America, and of course I would love to do pantomime again this year. That maybe sounds rather irregular, but it keeps me happily occupied! Unlike some BB hopefuls, I never intended to be a “media-tart” and to give the producers their due, we are all well warned that life after Big Brother is not the bed of roses you might imagine.

OTT: Could you have handled being in BB5, with all those extreme personalities in there?

CAMERON STOUT: I would love to have been in BB5 and am already looking forward to BB6. Unlike housemates themselves, we on the outside are aware of all the “spin” that surrounds them. To be in the house means taking people as you find them. I think they would have been a fascinating bunch to live with and regardless of how we view them, the interaction in the house is something unique.

OTT: Are you still in touch with any of the contestants, including those from South Africa?

CAMERON STOUT: In the last fortnight I’ve been in touch with Ray, Gos, Fed and Anouska, as well as Mwisho from BB Africa and two members of the production crew. Cherise phoned the other day, and we have plans to meet up this year again, probably April. The BB4 boys are all getting together later this month and it’s always great to see them – I think we must be the luckiest household from the point of view that we get along as well as we do. Some of the girls are in touch a bit less and I really should make more effort than I do.

OTT: Who got a raw deal from BB4, do you think?

CAMERON STOUT: I really hate it when I hear Scott being criticised for being boring, because he had the best sense of humour in the house. Maybe it wasn’t the easiest thing to show on the programmes, but I can assure you he is hilarious. Who could forget his “Ewar Woowar” joke?

OTT: How did Orkney welcome you home?

CAMERON STOUT: It was amazing really – Northlink Ferries invited 30 of my friends and family across to the mainland of Scotland to meet me; they laid on a special lounge, a buffet, beautiful cake, champagne and there was a band on board the ship and a pipe band on the pier when we arrived. In Stromness where I’m from, there was a street party in the afternoon and a fancy dress and open-air dance at night with two bands playing. The population of Stromness is 2000+ and I’m led to believe that there were 4000 people at the harbour that day for the boat coming in – it was a spectacle and really the first time I realised what had actually happened during the summer!

OTT: Would you recommend Big Brother to potential applicants?

CAMERON STOUT: Yes I certainly would! All I can say is – be yourself and have fun!