Interview: Fred Dinenage refuses to let age get in the way

Fred Dinenage
Fred Dinenage

FRED Dinenage is many things to many people: news anchor, kids TV presenter, author, confidant of the Krays, board member at Portsmouth FC – this list is almost endless. A man of many faces.

But, now entering his 70th year, one thing which shines through above everything else is his youthful enthusiasm.

Here is a man refusing to let his age get in the way.

And, as if to prove the point, he is one of the main guests at a forthcoming exhibition show here in Eastbourne aimed at highlighting the possibilities open to people over 50.

The event takes place at the Winter Garden on April 28/29 and, according to Mr Dinenage, he couldn’t be happier to support it.

Speaking to the Herald this week, the ever-popular personality said, “I think life has changed drastically for the over 50s in the last decade or so.

“When I was young anyone who was over 50 was almost dead and buried. That has changed and now we see people almost getting younger. I think it is a marvellous thing.

“It’s a cliché to say 50 is the new 30 but in many ways, it’s true.”

It has been a long time since Mr Dinenage started out as a cub reporter – with a host of scoops, stories and shows behind him – but he insists he has never enjoyed himself as much as is at the moment, nestled nicely in his role as frontman on Meridian’s regional news.

“I have been doing this for 28 years now and I love it,” he explained with a trademark glint in his eye.

“Because it is regional we have that personal contact with the viewer. They really do become like friends.”

One such new-found friend was a 97-year-old lady called Doris Long.

Keen to show that age is no barrier to excitement, the thrill-seeking pensioner abseiled down a 20-story high building in Portsmouth – and dragged Mr Dinenage with her.

“She is fantastic – a real inspiration. It is the sort of thing I probably would not have done when I was younger, but how could I say no when she was doing it at nearly 100 years old?”

Mrs Long is not alone in refusing point-blank to act her age. A recent survey by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that two thirds of parents plan not to worry too much about leaving a legacy. They are ‘skiing’ – or ‘spending the kids’ inheritance’ and it is people like that who Mr Dinenage and organisers hope will head to the Over 50s Festival later this year.

The team behind the show say it is all about helping people make the most of life – a theme becoming increasingly prevalent in modern society.

But, obviously, to embrace a lot of these opportunities takes money. More and more people are staying in work longer – either by choice or because of changes to the state pension.

Mr Dinenage however, loves life in front of the camera and certainly has no plans to call it a day just yet.

But is it easier for men of his age to remain in TV? Widespread criticisms in the national press over the last year would certainly suggest so.

“I think that may be slightly more true at the BBC than at Meridian,” said Mr Dinenage.

“Thankfully I have seen a good approach to people staying in work – regardless of their sex. People should be judged on what they have to offer.”

On the face of it Eastbourne, with its blue rinse reputation, seems a perfect venue for an Over 50s Festival.

However, the Herald revealed earlier this month that in fact the town boasts more young people than any other borough in Sussex. Eastbourne, it appears, is refusing to grow old – much like the people the festival is hoping to attract.

“I love Eastbourne,” enthused Mr Dinenage. “It is one of my favourite places. I could see myself living there one day.”

I dare say he would be made very welcome.

Tickets for the Over 50s Festival are on sale now priced £6 for adults (£5 if pre-booked) with under 16s going free. Students and OAPs can get in for £5 (or £4 pre-booked) and groups of ten or more can benefit from the same price. Carers go free. For more information visit 412000 or www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk or contact Faiza Shafeek on 414493 for stall information.

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• The East Sussex Over 50s Show takes place at the Winter Garden, Eastbourne on April 28 and 29 - click here to visit the website for more details.