Adam Trimingham

Elaine Evans interviews - Adam Trimingham

Career reporter

Having met Adam at various events around town over several decades, the thought of having an interview with him was very appealing. Knowing that at the end of his distinguished career he had been made a Freeman of the City, my number one question was "Had there been any indication in your early years that you would become a writer or reporter?"

The answer was emphatically "Yes".

Adam had been interested in writing from the start. His uncle had had books published and intrigued him by saying that the youngest published author at that time was aged about 10. Adam never achieved that but he still has in his possession stories that he wrote when he was about seven or eight years old. At school he always got good reports for English and has a book of essays from his time at Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith. His preference veered towards the humorous approach, so a typical comment from his teacher would be "Very good but can you do this seriously?" Adam says the answer was, "No, I can’t".

The family home was in Kensington. When he was 16, Adam started a cricket club. The players were teenagers, mainly friends from school, and he wrote match reports for the local paper, the Kensington News. When he left school at 18, plans to go to university changed, and he got a job with the paper, paying £3 per week. This was in 1960. Adam worked for other newspapers too, but when he moved to Brighton in 1967, he became a senior reporter with the Brighton and Hove Herald.

When it died, Adam moved to the Evening Argus – as it was then. However, someone bought the title of the Herald for £50 and resuscitated it, so Adam returned there to work for another 18 months until it finally closed. After that Adam worked for a freelance agency for several years until he permanently went back to The Argus in 1974.

I was surprised to know that it is commonplace for a reporter to write about 80 pieces in a week (about 15 a day). Their name may be credited to one or two key pieces but it is not practicable to attribute all the items.

I remember years ago Adam saying that he did not get involved in party politics so as to maintain his neutrality. This seems a very pragmatic approach which has served him well. I’m sure Adam knows everybody who’s anybody in the city and is on good terms with them all. Year in, year out, he has sat in the public gallery of the council chamber, carefully writing reports of the proceedings, and it was this meticulous and honest approach that earned him his award of Freeman in 2004 – by the way, the only person to be Freeman of Brighton and Hove (jointly)

Adam was the senior reporter at The Argus until his retirement in 2004. I pondered about the risk of writing about people – what if they didn’t like what he had written? He said that from time to time people would sue him and The Argus for libel but no case ever came to court. By the way, the national newspapers have in-house lawyers, but not the local press.

Adam was the leader writer (currently headlined “The Argus – Comment” on page 8) for 30 years plus, including the punning item at the bottom. I commented that these days all papers seem to be vying with each other to have punning headlines, sometimes excruciating, at every turn. He says, “It’s a craze”. He remembers it from long ago too: it goes in and out of fashion.

Like Ken Woodhams, my previous interviewee, there’s a good deal of stability in Adam’s life. His interest in reading and writing have been lifelong. He takes 4 Sunday newspapers and 3 dailies, reading most of their contents, plus about 100 books a year.  Just the newspapers alone seem a huge challenge but Adam says he’s a quick reader. And some!!

He has had an allotment for 40 years, nearly as long as his career in journalism, and has lived with his wife in Wish Road for 25 years. Other interests include cricket, cycling and year round swimming in the sea.

Once he retired, he felt able to join one or two organisations that had previously demanded his neutrality, so he is now on the board of the West Pier Trust and on the Blue Plaque panel. He also chooses, together with Roger French, the names to go on the front of the city’s buses. Yes, it’s true, only persons who have died can be considered. For a short period there were buses with the names of local celebrities who are very much alive, but when those buses were withdrawn, the rule reverted to “six feet under”. There is a book with mini-biographies of all the people commemorated on the buses which Adam wrote for the bus company. Some names are very well known, others rather obscure. Adam advanced the name of Edwin Fownes who, I’m sure, is unfamiliar to most folks. He was, in fact, the most famous driver of the stagecoaches between London and Brighton – rather a touching choice, don’t you agree?

In conversation with Nick van Hoogstraten one day, I mentioned Adam's name and Nick said, "He's a good man" (or words to that effect) Adam had interviewed Nick for The Argus when the latter was living in France. Undoubtedly Adam knows many hundreds of people and I wondered aloud about the size of his Christmas card list. "About 200, but small compared with President Bush's rumoured 50,000", Adam joked.

Adam may be officially retired but he still writes articles twice weekly for The Argus and for The Leader. His unbounded enthusiasm for communicating with people through the written word will never die. It was a pleasure to talk to such an interesting and congenial man.

Mini Questionnaire

Date and Place of Birth:
Abingdon 9.8.42

What do you like about your house?
It is close to the sea

Any pets?
Not since my cat died a few years ago

Where would you take a first time visitor to Brighton/Hove?
The Piers, the Pavilion, North Laine and the great squares and terraces

Favourite restaurants (local and elsewhere)?
Barry at the Tureen, Upper North Street, Brighton; Crossways, Wilmington, near Eastbourne

Ideal dinner guest:
Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye

Favourite author:
Humorous writer Robert Brenchley

Ideal Holiday:
New Zealand

Your most memorable experience of the last 5 years or so?
Completing 44 years in journalism and starting a new life in retirement in 2004

What do you consider your most satisfying professional or personal achievement in life (so far)?
To have written thousands of stories giving both sides of the argument

Any future ambitions/desires?
To help the organisations I belong to, including Bike for Life, the South Downs Society and the Brighton and Hove Arts Commission