Jan 16 2013 By Michael Russell
Talking Newspapers celebrates its 1500th edition. (LTOR) Jina Bayley, Andrew Neatby-Smith, Ealing Gazette reporter Michael Russell and Rekha John-Cheriyan.
A CHARITY which gives blind and visually impaired people the chance to listen to stories in the Gazette has celebrated its 1,500th edition.
Every week, Talking Newspapers records the latest news on to audio tapes, which are then posted to subscribers across the borough.
I was invited to be a guest reader to mark the occasion on Friday last week, joining three others at the charity's studios in Broughton Road, West Ealing.
Reader Andrew Neatby-Smith, of Studley Grange Road, Hanwell, said the charity does an important job.
“People who can’t see or have trouble reading can listen to news on television, but the local news is often not as detailed as the local press,” he added. “It’s more valuable for them to be able to listen to the local paper.”
About 50 volunteers work on a rota basis to ensure more than 100 residents can listen to the Gazette every week, at no charge.
The readers, a compiler and a sound engineer have a short time between picking up the latest paper to prepare, record and edit each edition before the postman arrives in the afternoon to collect the tapes.
The chairman of Ealing Talking Newspapers, Brian Watkins, said: “It feels really good to reach 1,500 editions. We got excited when we reached 1,000 and 500 more represents another 10 years’ work.
“I think we have so many volunteers because people feel they’re doing something worthwhile. Our listeners are really grateful for what we do.”
There are about 500 talking newspaper groups across the country. The movement started in Wales in 1970 after the idea was brought over from Sweden.
The borough’s group, running since 1980, was founded by Ealing Rotary Club and Southall Lions Club.
As well as its Gazette tape, it distributes a monthly bulletin in the Punjabi language containing news taken from Punjabi newspapers and a tape magazine called Visions featuring items such as interviews with local personalities and articles on local history and places of interest.
Mr Watkins said the charity, which gets its cash from fundraising and donations, hoped to reach more people.
“We want to make sure we’re not missing anybody,” he added. “A lot of our listeners are people who have lost their sight fairly suddenly.
“When it first happens it’s all very confusing, and they’re offered a lot of different services. Maybe some of your readers will have friends or relatives who can benefit from us, but don't know we’re here.”
The charity is planning to upgrade its system to recording its weekly bulletins on to memory sticks, but needs to raise £5,000 to do this.
“Cassettes and cassette players are becoming more and more difficult to get hold of,” said Mr Watkins. “Memory sticks are the way forward. Any financial help would be gratefully appreciated.”
Ealing Talking Newspapers can be contacted for more information or to make a donation on 020 8840 2313, or via its website, www.ealingtalkingnewspapers.org.uk.