A local woman who has transformed the lives of thousands of people has been presented with a prestigious award.
Patsy Morrison from Milngavie, is the recipient of a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to people with long-term health conditions, to comedy, and charity.
As founder and managing director of Universal Comedy, Patsy has used stand-up as a means of reducing the social isolation of those with long-term physical and mental ill-health.
The idea for the charity came about following a period of hospitalisation when Patsy realised that humour could allow patients on her ward to connect with each other.
She believed that the therapeutic benefit of comedy could be used to improve the health and also employability of people who had been unable to work or socialise because of a health issue.
In the 14 years since the charity has been established, it has supported nearly 3000 people across the wider Glasgow area. Over the course of several months, participants work with professional comedians to develop a stand-up routine which is performed in front of an audience of family and friends.
Previous groups have also performed at the Scottish Parliament and as part of the Glasgow Comedy festival.
The experience allows participants to overcome the social isolation which can accompany long-term illness.
Patsy said: “I am delighted to receive this award as recognition for setting up and running Universal Comedy.
“One of the most rewarding things for me has been to see graduate trainees of the company, who were previously isolated, grow in confidence, flourish socially and become inspiring positive role models in their own right by performing their own comedy work to audiences across Scotland.”
HM Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire, Rear Admiral Michael Gregory OBE, presented Patsy with her BEM at an Investiture in the Council headquarters in Kirkintilloch this week.
Admiral Gregory said: “The fact that so many people have had their lives turned around by the charity, over such a long period of time, is just remarkable.
“To take a negative experience of ill-health and to turn it into such a force for good, is true inspiration”.
Also attending the Investiture was Vice-Lord Lieutenant, Miss Gill Aitkenhead MBE, who read the citation, Deputy Lieutenant Mrs Morag Hart MBE JP DL and other members of the Honours & Awards Committee.
Patsy’s close friends and family were also in attendance.
East Dunbartonshire Provost Alan Brown said: “Patsy’s hard work has helped to transform the lives of so many people, many of whom previously felt cut off from society.
“Standing in front of an audience and delivering stand-up comedy is something that most people would find intimidating. The fact that some participants begin the course barely able to leave the house and finish it by cracking jokes in front of a crowd is testament to great work going on at Universal Comedy.
“Patsy is an absolute inspiration and it is great to see hard-working people from our communities honoured in this way.”
Universal Comedy started in 2004 and Patsy is the sole employee, assisted by a volunteer board of directors. In 2015, participants travelled to the Scottish Parliament to perform stand-up and talk about the positive outcomes from the course in line with the Scottish Government’s own commitment to person-centred, safe and effective healthcare.