Media Families: 11. The Siegharts

Mary Ann Sieghart and her daughter, Evie Prichard; William Sieghart and his wife, Molly Dineen

Ann Treneman
Sunday 27 April 1997 23:02

No one could call the Siegharts a shy and retiring family. Mary Ann is an assistant editor at The Times and has been called ambitious so many times that her children probably think it is her middle name. She is also a champion of family-friendly policies in the workplace, so no one should be surprised that when school-run problems loomed she decided to take her five-year-old daughter, Evie, with her to those tedious early- morning election press conferences. The diary columns have talked of little else since.

Evie, we are told, has been politicised since the age of three. She is officially accredited by Labour (but not the Tories). Evie even tried to ask Gordon Brown a question, and has been promised that she can ask one today. She is both loved ("the star of the election" - Evening Standard) and a cause for angst, with The Express giving over an entire page to a bitchy piece on the "ghastly trend of the trophy child".

It is all so over the top that the Sieghart clan might just think it is normal, for this is a family that has not had many brushes with the ordinary humdrum of life. Take a family meal. What this meant when Mary Ann and her older brother, William, were growing up was being grilled on the political issues of the day by their father, Paul, a barrister turned civil liberties campaigner. At 11, Mary Ann already had two O-levels. She went to Bedales, starting taking The Times and decided she wanted to be a political journalist. At 16, she gained a scholarship to Oxford.

William and Mary Ann ended up at university at the same time (she got a First and he a Third) and now, at ages 37 and 35, are still very close.

In the Eighties, William started a contract publishing company, called Forward Publishing, and is now a millionaire. Colleagues describe him as charming: his name was a favourite on the "most eligible bachelors" lists and the girlfriend (former) that everyone talks of is the actress Uma Thurman.

His great love was and is poetry, though, and he has been hugely influential in its renaissance. "He is always saying that we have to get poetry out of Poetry Corner," said one colleague. He founded the lucrative Forward Poetry Prize, and every year he publishes the definitive book of new poetry. He dreamt up the idea of National Poetry Day in the bath, and says: "Poetry is a magnificent companion in this busy modern world, often giving us a vocabulary for emotions we cannot express."

Last year he married Molly Dineen, who is no slouch on the vocabulary of emotions herself, and they now have a baby girl named Maude. Molly has been called the "most distinguished verite documentary-maker of our times".

Her latest outing was as the woman behind last week's party election broadcast dubbed "Tony - The Home Movie". This has generated almost as many column inches as Evie - and Dineen was even given the royal treatment of a Sunday paper profile.

Other highlights of her oeuvre to date include The Ark, on London Zoo, and In the Company of Men, about the Army in Northern Ireland.

No one doubts that one day Mary Ann - or MA, as she is called - could herself be the subject of a Sunday newspaper profile. Married to the security firm owner Dai Prichard, she has a propensity for being noticed, even without Evie, and is often seen on television. She is a great believer in the old girls' network and one of the founder members of the group Women in Journalism. Her confidence is legendary: The Times has a half- a-dozen or so assistant editors, but it is Mary Ann's name that consistently comes up when people discuss future editors. It's the kind of thing that Evie and her three-year-old sister, Rosa, might think is normaln

Ann Treneman

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