My lottery years

Mystic Meg has been the resident astrologer at the News of the World for 15 years. Her turn on the National Lottery show made her a national celebrity

Every morning, after I've had a cup of hot water and read the Racing Post, I draw a rune for the day. Just before the Lottery started, I got the big money rune. On that same day, I got a call from National Lottery Live, asking me to make a prediction on the first show. One of the researchers liked my horoscopes in the News of the World. So the runes were right, though the big money was for other people! The prediction I made came true, so I was asked back.

Being seen on the TV does make the world a friendlier place. Strangers smile in the street, and people love to talk about how they would spend the money. Of course, all kinds of people ask me for numbers. Oh yes, and I have built up quite a wardrobe, too.

My most vivid memory of the Lottery is when I was doing my prediction to camera, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a naked man running towards me. The security guard caught him inches before he got in front of the camera. Painted on his back were the words "Pick my balls". Also, it was a total treat to be in the studio when k d lang was singing live. I do play the Lottery every Saturday, but my horoscope suggests that I will always work for my money. My latest venture is a magazine called Know Your Destiny.

Marjorie Longdin won £850,000. Her children have been the main beneficiaries, but her nephew William and his new wife Ffion also enjoyed some of the spoils at a lunch party Marjorie held for all the family

I was never clever enough to do football pools, so when the Lottery was announced I thought: "Oh goody. This is something I can do." When they introduced the Wednesday Lottery, I thought, well, with having these same numbers, I'll have to get the ticket for Wednesday. So I did away with the scratchcard - my weekly stake was £2.

It was the Wednesday Lottery that I won. You forget it's on. I'd been away to Tunisia, and one of my daughters came over to hear all about my holiday. We never thought about the Lottery. On Thursday morning I got up, got my breakfast and was sitting reading the Yorkshire Post when I saw the numbers. I realised that the first three were winners, that I'd won ten pounds.

Then I absorbed the other numbers and I sort of . . . well, you go into shock. You look, and you can't believe, you think, "this can't be me", then you look again and you think, "Well, they are my numbers, I've got my ticket," and you get a bit shaky. So I phoned my daughter in the village, and her husband came round and said "they look all right to me". So he got through to Camelot and then they said "Put her on" and they checked, and called me back. Then they said "Congratulations."

At that point I suddenly thought, "I ought to tell them that I'm William's auntie." I also rang my sister, William's mother, and said "Tell William I've won the Lottery and I don't want to put a foot wrong."

Richard Branson was part of a consortium that made an unsuccessful bid to run a not-for-profit Lottery in 1994

The first time that I thought about lotteries was driving through the countryside near Dublin in 1987. A new sports centre was being built, and an Irish friend mentioned that it was funded from their lottery. So I met the Irish lottery chief, John Fitzpatrick, and spent some time with him. Then I wrote to Mrs Thatcher and suggested a charitable foundation to run a UK lottery, pledging 100 per cent of the profits to good causes.

I think Mrs Thatcher was against the principle of encouraging gambling. The Lottery is a tax on the poor, but I felt that if all the profits went to good causes, the poor would benefit proportionately more than they spent, and good would come of it. When John Major finally pushed ahead with it, I was saddened that this principle had been lost.

We felt that we would win, and that if we didn't win we could make Camelot stump up maybe another billion pounds to good causes. I think the latter did happen, so our involvement was time well spent. We're debating internally whether Camelot has it all wrapped up for another term or whether the government's manifesto pledge that the Lottery would be run with all profits to good causes will be realised.

Every single day I get two or three hundred requests for a charity appearance or donation. In one sense, by caring about the Lottery, in one fell swoop I can achieve more than I could by responding to five years' worth of these letters; either bidding and making Camelot sharpen their pencils, or bidding and succeeding.

Richard Wild works for Third Division Rochdale FC, where he experienced the National Lottery's effect on the club's fund-raising

The immediate impact of the Lottery was devastating - we lost about 30 per cent of our Goldbond [lottery] sale. The directors were fretting a bit when people were dropping away, but the worry has eased now.

We lost out enormously on factories that used to have syndicates contributing towards Goldbond. Getting someone to start up a syndicate at work is still difficult, because there are that many National Lottery syndicates. We have our own in the office here.

It had the opposite effect on our scratchcards. When the National Lottery started doing theirs, everyone had scratchcards running through their brains. Every time they saw our scratchcards they thought "Oh, I'll have one of them!" - it was unbelievable.

If you're a fan, you're a fan, and you always pay to the club; it was the non-fans who stopped. When you dangle £10 million in front of them compared to £500, they go for it, even though the chances of winning with us are one in 6,000.

Anything that we think we can make a penny with for the club, we'll try. We share our ground with a rugby team, so we pull together to make it one of the best in the division.

Ruth Morgan-Thomas is a World Health Organisation consultant and director of the self-help group Scottish Prostitutes Education Project. Scot-PEP faced a media onslaught in 1997 on being awarded a Lottery grant

Young people involved in prostitution tend to present us with six, seven, eight major life issues, as opposed to a single problem an older woman might bring. I didn't have the staff or funding to provide support to those young people. The Lottery said: "Very worthwhile cause. Love to give you the money." We were absolutely delighted.

It was Virginia Bottomley who highlighted five Lottery grant applications the Conservatives felt should not have been receiving public funds. At the point of attack we were funded by the Health Board, which was government funding; we had had funding from the Scottish Office, the EC, and the WHO.

Part of me was very angry with reporters, who weren't interested in Scot-PEP's achievements. Some journalists wanted only to find something on a personal or professional level that they could use to discredit and shut us down. That was quite frightening; we are here because there's a real need. An inordinate amount of Scot-PEP's time was wasted defending itself from the constant attacks.

The young persons' project was established, and a youth worker employed. We had a really meaningful impact for a lot of young people working as prostitutes. Now the storm's passed we have an opportunity to fulfil the youth project's true potential. My young persons' project worker should be patted on the back, for surviving.

Anthea Turner was the first presenter of the BBC's National Lottery Live show. Though she moved on in 1996, she often returns for Lottery specials

Sadly we only hear salacious stories: the crashed Ferraris, the Opera House hullaballoo. It's a shame we don't get to hear the story of the £1,000 grant made to an OAPs' group for a video camera to record their memories. That gave them a source of excitement, an interest, a project - it put a smile on their faces. That's what the Lottery's all about.

There's not a London taxi I've ever got into where I didn't have to defend the Lottery. They still say: "Do you know the Lottery numbers for Saturday? Ho ho!"

It was from the Lottery that I learnt about fame. I had been on Blue Peter; on GMTV; but the Lottery put huge attention on me. On the roadshow, photographers would say: "just sit on that wall" or "turn round a bit" . . . I'd be thinking: "What are they looking at? What is this bloke trying to do?" There were so many pictures of my knickers; I got wise to it, wore trousers, made sure I didn't sit on walls and so on. Silly little things.

I suppose secretly I'd like to be on one of the boards that decides who gets the money. I'd love to be in the Dishing Out Department. Definitely. But I'm sure they have people who've got a degree in Money Giving-Out. I will always be associated with the Lottery - it's something that I'm very proud of.

Terry & Gloria Wilson set up their newsagent on Banstead High Street 17 years ago. By 1995 things were looking bleak for freeholders who had bought at the peak of the property boom

We were in a fragile state: spiralling rents, big boys muscling in . . . Most high-street positions were extremely delicate - still are. Then along came the Lottery.

We were on the second part of the roll-out. Anyone in the first part was tearing their hair out with people queuing up out of the shops, machines breaking down - it was a nightmare. So we were a bit lucky. It definitely did improve the turnover of the shop. They call it link selling; we just think of it as good retailing. On Saturdays the place is just heaving.

Then we won the best independent Lottery shop award, which was three grand. We had a fabulous day at the Dorchester, sat at the head table - we thought they'd put us in the wrong seats. It was like a wedding, when you're the centre of attraction. They took good care of us.

It's all basic KISS, "keep it simple, stupid", that's our philosophy. We often run a losing-ticket draw: put your telephone number on it, pop it in our draw, and win a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. Little things like that.

You see that people are keeping their dreams alive; the football pools used to do it, the Lottery does it now. I think the dream of winning is more fun than actually winning.

Joe Habib directs Funder-Finder, a charity creating software for the voluntary sector. She has been vice-chair of the charity awards board for Yorkshire and the Humber since the start of the lottery

There's a structure for the distribution of arts money: the Arts Council and regional boards. Sports have something similar. With charities there was no structure to tap in to. At the last minute newly appointed regional managers were charged with finding appropriate people for regional advisory panels.

We don't do the actual grant-making in public for legal reasons, but the public can come to policy discussions. There is a rigorous system of scoring and a set of grant officers who investigate the grants. We're there as moderators - for instance, encouraging more applications from the coalfields communities, who have come out badly so far. It's those issues that make it very interesting.

We have piloted having "by lot" members. Two of our 13 panel members were chosen from the electoral register. One is a student, in his first year at university, and one is a Barnsley housewife. They have contributed hugely.

There has been a growth in "consultants" getting big fees from helping to put Lottery bids together. Some are good, but a lot just aim to make money quickly by advising on big capital bids. If your organisation is effectively run you should be able to make an application without any external advice.

I think it's important that there's a turnover of people on the regional committees. I've done four years and I'll be out by Christmas. I have enjoyed it very much.

Interviews by Adam Hibbert

This article first appeared in the 08 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - To uplift the souls of the people