Colin Grainger

Read all about it

The following interview with me appeared in issue 263 of “The Newham Mag”, Newham Council’s fortnightly magazine about the Borough.


Read all about it


Picture: Andrew Baker.

Colin Grainger joined the Newham Recorder as a trainee reporter in 1972 and became one of only two editors in the newspaper’s 44-year-history. He looks back on his career as company changes see him vacate the editor’s chair.

You must have seen many changes?

I grew up in North Woolwich and Silvertown and played on World War II bomb sites, so to see the development of Beckton and the docks alongside London City Airport, ExCeL and the Thames Barrier is amazing.

The pace of change has been incredible and developments like Westfield and the Olympic sites have changed the landscape so much. Who would have imagined they’d be £1m river-front flats in Newham?

Communities have also changed. In my early days, having a Polish community in Forest Gate was exotic, but now Newham has so many cultures and there is a real willingness among people to get on.

How has journalism changed over the years?

When I started the newsroom was far noisier with typewriters, not computers, and clouds of cigarette smoke. When computers arrived in the 1980s we not only wrote the news, but designed the pages and wrote headlines.

Despite all the technology, the basics remain the same. Check, check and check again. Tell the truth, campaign for justice, make your contacts, do the right thing. Human interest stories are still out there.

Tackling real issues that affect people’s lives is the most important thing. Now because of the internet and social media, newspapers are changing how they cover news. But whether in print, online, TV or radio, a good journalist will always have an eye for a story.

What was your most difficult story?

My mother Lily’s accident and subsequent death made a lead story in the Recorder in 1977 because she was so well known in the community. That was tough, but with the guidance of former editor Tom Duncan, it spurred me to write a series of features examining our health services. We campaigned for local improvements, which eventually arrived.

What is your proudest achievement?

The Recorder has always been a family newspaper. We have challenged those in power, fought against injustice, but always tried to give people a laugh as well. I have always tried to show young people in a positive light.

I am most proud of my, and the paper’s, association with Community Links – the most wonderful organisation it has been my honour to know. We have worked together on so many good things, including our Christmas Toy Appeal, now in its 36th year.

When we launched it we had a target of 500 toys, which we never thought we would reach. Now we aim for 15,000 toys and it is testimony to the marvellous community spirit in Newham that we achieve that target. We have collected toys worth more than £2 million over the years. The joy on the faces of needy children makes it worthwhile.

Which famous people have you interviewed?

John Wayne came to film at Beckton Gasworks. He spat over my shoulder – but in a nice way! I also interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger at Wag Bennett’s gym in Forest Gate long before he was really famous and said “I’ll be back”.

Singer Lonnie Donegan bought me my first ever piece of cheesecake in a West End restaurant. I thought I was so posh. David Essex had the girls swooning in the Recorder’s office in East Ham and Dame Vera Lynn was a truly lovely woman. I first met photographer David Bailey in the ’70s. He was surly and side-splittingly funny at the same time. It was great to meet him again this year at Newham Council’s Ideas Olympiad. And our golden girl, Stratford Olympian Christine Ohuruogu, is also a very special lady.

If you want to donate to the Newham Recorder and Community Links Christmas toy appeal visit or call Community Links on 020 7473 2270.

One Comment

  1. James
    January 29, 2013

    Great interview!

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This article was written on 23 Jan 2013, and is filed under Colin Grainger, Newham, Newham Recorder, Newspapers.

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