Colin Grainger

Campaigning for the community for 50 years – happy birthday Newham Recorder

Happy birthday to the Newham Recorder, which celebrates the milestone of 50 years of existence today.

I was asked to write a piece marking the anniversary today for a special supplement in the paper. And after doing so I had a few more thoughts to share. So here’s what I believe the paper has achieved, and what’s been special to me since 1968…

Campaigning, caring, fighting for and serving the Newham community. That was my mantle in 40 years at the Newham Recorder.

I joined as a trainee reporter in 1972 and it was my honour to become the paper’s second Editor for the last 15 years of my career there.

Now freelancing and working for charities, I still refer to the ‘New’am’ as my paper and say ‘we’ve done this or that’ because it will always be in my blood.

My former guv’nor and close friend Tom Duncan, who taught me the right way to do things, launched the paper back in 1968 with a mandate to ‘make it a success in a year.’ He did that and so much more. He led from the front and was later made a Freeman of Newham for his services to the community.


  • Tom Duncan(left) and MP Tony Banks, myself and Tom Duncan when Tom made made an honorary Freeman of Newham

My best contacts in my early days were my schoolpals who got off buses to get to a call box to give me tip offs! The smoke-filled office was a noisy place. We worked 12-14 hour days, longer on Tuesday press nights. It was the pride and passion that kept us there, certainly not the wages!

  • Early days picture of a young reporter

We regularly out-scooped Fleet Street and won many awards, including campaigning newspaper of the year nationally. We fought for justice. Everything from gangland and other killings, housing scandals, IRA bombings, the murders of policemen and women were major stories on our patch.

We were, and still are, Newham Council’s opposition. Taking them and others to task when things go wrong, uncovering scandal and injustice. But also working in partnership with them on projects that enhanced lives.

Government ministers demanded to know how I got exclusives like the one about Newham’s new hospital. We partnered unions and the council in the Newham Needs campaign to win more Government funding. We won police praise for our part in reporting on missing youngster Daniel Handley every week for a year until his body was sadly found. Child cruelty cases and murders like this rocked you.

  • The then Home Secretary Michael Howard visits the Newham Recorder office during our reporting of the murder trial into Daniel Handley’s killing. Pictured: Colin Grainger, deputy editor John Finn, chief sub Chris Hodges and Tom Duncan

One of the hardest stories I had to write concerned my mother Lily’s death in a tragic fall. She was well known in the community. I not only gave evidence at her inquest but filed a report in it. I then wrote a feature comparing the treatment she received in a Cambridge hospital to the Dickensian conditions in local hospitals.

But there was also great humour in our pages, bringing lighter stories to balance our reporting. The ‘I’m a Recorder darling’ campaign got us national TV exposure. Superb pictures were also key. Some of the most read material took us down memory lane – something social media majors in now.

I always taught the journalists who worked with me to write with emotion. If you don’t, why bother?

  • Another shot of life in the East Ham office

The thing that made us great was being a family. Editorial, advertising, planning, circulation and others all working together. Whenever there was a crisis – in our work or personal lives – we got through it together. Trusted, talented, special people, friends for life. I’ve watched individuals grow with pride, becoming brilliant at their jobs and many superb parents with their own families. It fills me with pride that my own children worked with me as journalists. My son now edits a paper in Argentina.

  • Happy days… editor’s secretary Doris Judd centre stage in this picture

There were tough times. Having to deal with unwelcome office visitors, the worst  two incidents where guns were pulled on me. The IRA planted a bomb at the foot of our stairs.  But we carried on finishing the paper while the bomb squad made it safe! When Newham Council, then run by a different breed thankfully long gone, pulled their advertising because they didn’t like us exposing their scandals, our management stood strong. We can look back on all this now and laugh.

Sadly we left the East Ham office that had been our home from 1971 in 2010 as our parent company sought to save money. But in 2012 our coverage of the Olympics when Newham became the centre of the world was superb.

One of my proudest achievements is the Christmas Toy Appeal launched 41 years ago to give children and families who would otherwise go without a season of goodwill. When organiser Kevin Jenkins came up to our office in 1977 it set off the launch of the biggest community appeal in Newham’s history. It has raised 15,000 toys a year worth over £3 million involving every section of our community. From senior citizens donating pensions and paper boys and girls giving their wages to corporate donations, it remains at the heart of the community and something I am a still a big part of. My newspaper family and my own family see the joy it gives me.

  • Raising money for the Toy Appeal through a sponsored swim in the 1980s

Nowadays there are many pressures on newspapers. But I am glad to say the paper is still providing an excellent service to local people. It’s a battle for survival for many local papers, and scores have closed or have been reduced in the last decade.

  • Scrubbing up well. Current Editor Lorraine King, Michael Adkins, her predecessor and myself

  • The paper’s first edition – with the exclusive Bobby Moore column

I’m proud to say the paper is still a champion of the community – and has changed lives for the better. So let’s thank all those special people who have served here and celebrate 50 years of the Newham Recorder.

It is said that you should ‘always leave ’em laughing’ and so I’ll end this tribute with a special picture taken this morning of a little piece of Newham Recorder history.

  • Colin and Eddie

Many years ago a local drunk threw a half-empty bottle of whisky through the sign that lit-up the evenings outside our offices in High Street North.  The sign had been there for the best part of 25 years and so we had to have it replaced. Amazingly the Newham Council CCTV cameras trained on our offices (that used  to capture images to help dish out fines to motorists who parked there for 30 seconds) didn’t have any pictures of the vandal attack. The police called me up and amazingly it was given a ‘hate crime’ category!  

I kept the sign in my office for a few months after we had a new one installed. Later that year I decided to auction it to raise money for the Christmas Toy Appeal that means so much to us. We raised a couple of hundred pounds. Years later the buyer returned it. I’ve kept that as my own piece of Recorder history for many years – there may have been a few Recorder pens as well.

If we ever get a museum for Newham – one of the community campaigns I am involved in – hopefully this sign will have a place in it, along with the back issues that the Heritage Newham group is looking after.

My cat Eddie features in the picture because he also has a place in our history. He once used to write the TV column for us! (He also has  Facebook and Twitter accounts).

So there you have it.

Cheers! Let’s raise a glass today to celebrate 50 years of the Newham Recorder.


Pictures: Colin Grainger/ Newham Recorder


  1. Sheila peters
    September 15, 2018

    Hi I wanted to know if you wrote anything about jan Kingston she was the first woman bus driver in East Ham I’m try to find her she is my aunt thank you

  2. Chris McLaughlin
    August 6, 2019

    Hi Colin,
    Read your wonderful piece on the New’am’s anniversary. Good to see the best ever paper is still going strong thanks to you, Tom and the team. It would be really, really great to catch up. I’m on 07775337001 if you like to call or leave a message.
    All very best,

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This article was written on 13 Jun 2018, and is filed under Colin Grainger, Heritage, History, Newham Recorder, Newspapers.