Personal view from a West Sussex reporter: 9 of the most interesting people I have met this year

The role of a local journalist is vital and I have had the absolute pleasure of doing the job for 37 years. I said when I was eight that I wanted to be a journalist and I am so lucky to have been able to continue my career for so long. We meet so many wonderful people and here are just a few I have interviewed in 2021.

Ashok and Shobha Sthankiya

Long-standing Shoreham postmaster Ashok Sthankiya and his wife Shobha retired in January and I was invited to meet them at Southlands Post Office to interview them about their 26 years’ at the shop.

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They were so kind to me. It was a shock to learn they had both suffered with Covid-19 in November 2020 but a pleasure to hear how the community rallied to support them.

Some of the interesting people reporter Elaine Hammond has met this year

Dr Tim Fooks

I first spoke with Dr Tim Fooks in May 2020, when I interviewed him about his role as the new High Sheriff of West Sussex. That was on the phone. And we worked together for the next year, as Tim wrote fascinating weekly articles for our West Sussex titles about how people were coping during the pandemic.

It was not until April this year, though, that I actually got to meet Tim in person. And that was the most wonderful occasion, a real proud moment, when he presented me with a High Sheriff Award on behalf of the journalists working for JPIMedia in West Sussex.

Long-standing Shoreham postmaster Ashok Sthankiya and his wife Shobha. Picture: Steve Robards SR2101231

I have since been invited to Tim’s home to interview him about his book and met him again just a few weeks ago, when he presented the proceeds, some £2,000, to Sussex Community Foundation.

Princess Anne

After two years of working on a campaign to protect Chichester Harbour, I was privileged to be one of only a very few people invited to Bosham for a royal visit.

High Sheriff Dr Tim Fooks presents an award to Elaine Hammond on behalf of journalists at JPIMedia in West Sussex. Picture: Steve Robards SR2104211

Challenges facing Chichester Harbour, from natural causes and human sources, were laid out before Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, at Bosham Sailing Club and she was then taken on a private boat trip around the harbour.

Although I, of course, was not allowed to speak to Princess Anne, I was given free rein and was in very close quarters with her during the visit. I was so impressed by the interest she showed and the intelligent questions she asked about the harbour.

Princess Anne visited Chichester Harbour in May

I have met The Great Pottery Throw Down finalist Adam Johnson twice this year and I love his enthusiasm for his craft. Adam officially opened Superstar Arts’ charity shop in Worthing in May and it was here that I first met him, his partner Dan Mackey and their dog Egg.

Adam is a trustee of the charity and is doing all he can to support the Superstars. It was a great treat to be invited by him to meet up again in November to chat about his most recent project, a range of vases he has been making with the Superstars.

Liz Payne

Worthing midwife Liz Payne retired in June after 40 years of working at Worthing Hospital and Southlands Hospital in Shoreham.

I knew her by sight but when we met for a chat over tea and cake, it was first time I had really spoken to her. We learned we had grown up in the same area of south London, which was a surprise, and the hand of fate had brought us both to Worthing.

Ceramicist Adam Johnson, a finalist on Channel 4's The Great Pottery Throw Down. Picture: Steve Robards SR2111022

It’s always a pleasure to meet such interesting people and to hear about their lives. Liz was a lovely lady to interview and thinking about it now makes me smile.

Alex New

In July, I was invited to Highdown Gardens for an event celebrating the new partnership with St Barnabas House hospice.

These world-famous gardens have always been one of my favourite places to visit in Worthing, so it was a great pleasure to meet plant heritage officer Alex New and hear about his plans.

He explained that hard decisions had to be made about the plants, as work began on a project to ensure the future focus was firmly on the world-renowned work of Sir Frederick and Lady Sybil Stern, who created the garden between 1909 and 1967 as an experiment to see what would grow on the chalk soil of the South Downs.

Kenny Tutt

I had the pleasure of meeting MasterChef champion Kenny Tutt and his wife Lucy for the first time in August, at the launch of the menu for the new Bayside Social restaurant on Worthing seafront.

They were both extremely nice and the food was delicious. I was served dishes and cocktails to try at Pitch, Kenny’s first restaurant in Worthing, as at the time, work was still ongoing at Bayside Social on the beach.

It was so lovely to chat with them both about their plans, their business and their family. It was also nice to meet some of the staff and hear how much they love their work.

Linda Kerrison

I was lucky enough to join Linda Kerrison, volunteer and engagement officer at the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust, on a guided walk through Sompting Brooks in August to see how the Broadwater Brook stream had been opened up.

This was just before the hidden gem between Sompting and Worthing was opened to the public and I couldn’t be more impressed by Linda’s knowledge and all the trust had achieved with rerouting the river

Michael and Nancy Kavalieros

I was invited to the River Breeze restaurant in Littlehampton in October to meet owners Michael and Nancy Kavalieros for an interview about their retirement.

I ended up meeting most of the family and it was so nice chatting to them all about their time at the restaurant.

Michael and Nancy Kavalieros ran River Breeze, in Pier Road, for 21 years and made a lot of friends along the way, with many long-standing regular customers.

Midwife Liz Payne on her retirement. Picture: Steve Robards SR2106014
Plant heritage expert Alex New at Highdown Gardens, Worthing. Picture: Steve Robards SR2107296
MasterChef winner Kenny Tutt and Richard Doyle, head chef at Bayside Social, chatting with guests at the Bayside Social menu launch
Linda Kerrison, volunteer and engagement officer at Ouse & Adur Rivers Trust, on the bridge at the end of the Sompting Brooks Trail
Nancy and Michael Kavalieros at River Breeze restaurant in Littlehampton. Picture: Steve Robards SR2110201