Landmark year for talking newspaper

An organisation that provides local news and information on tapes for visually impaired south east Northumberland residents, has celebrated its 20th year.

Blyth & District Talking Newspaper, which is run by volunteers, celebrated its anniversary in the open learning centre at the Blyth Academy in Chase Farm Drive.

Guests in attendance included Mayor Olga Potts, Deputy Mayor Adrian Cartie, the president of Blyth Rotary Club Bill Thompson, and representatives from other local organisations, who have contributed to the success of the talking newspaper.

The function, which is held annually, is an opportunity for the listeners and readers to meet each other informally, to have a chat and a cup of tea and to thank everyone for their continued support.

The Blyth and District Talking Newspaper was first established in 1994, with a small group of readers recording onto audio tapes in a house in Dent Street, Blyth.

The programme was initially the idea of Tony and Alice Gibson with the involvement of Insight, a club located in Blyth for visually impaired people, where funds were raised to purchase the recording equipment to produce the tapes, with the assistance of Jean Wilkes from the Northumberland County Blind Association (NCBA) at Hexham.

Unfortunately the group ceased to operate in the late 90s due to a lack of readers and the need to find alternative premises in which to record.

It was re-established in 2001 by the late Avril Bell and Alice Gibson, from a chance meeting at the Well Woman’s club in Blyth.

Fortunately the recording and copying equipment was still in existence, which enabled a relatively easy start up, as far as the technical side was concerned.

The management and operational side was initially under the wing of the NCBA at Morpeth, without whose expertise and guidance it would have been a struggle.

Avril soon recruited a group of dedicated readers to continue providing the service.

Some are still volunteering, including Colin Pudney, Ken Hedley, Gloria Cambell, Maureen Patchett, Margaret Caroline and Eric Dickson.

Pauline Blakie, Thom Bradley and the staff at the Blyth CVA assisted in the formation of the structure of the organisation and advised on grant applications and the need to apply for charitable status.

The talking newspaper has no premises of its own, so initially the CVA generously allowed the use of its meeting room for the fortnightly recordings, and the group is grateful for this.

Recordings still take place on alternate Wednesdays but are now at the Blyth Academy in Chase Farm Drive.

Volunteer Eric Dickson said: “The Rotary Club of Blyth has given substantial financial help to the group over a long period of time, and the talking newspaper is greatly indebted for this help.

“There is now a dedicated group of readers who produce the talking newspaper, which is taken from articles in the News Post Leader.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer reader can contact Val on (01670) 367293, or if you are interested in the technical side of recording or know someone who could benefit from receiving the talking newspaper, contact Eric on (01670) 355197.