A group of dedicated volunteers who enable people who are visually impaired to keep in touch with what is going on locally are gearing up to celebrate a huge milestone.
In May 1978 the Ribble Valley Talking Newspaper Group sent out the first of its recordings of local news on cassettes, lasting 90 minutes with dedicated administrators, editors, readers and technical assistants helping to entertain its visually impaired listeners.
In 1997 the organisation celebrated its 1,000th edition – and now 20 years later, those involved with the talking newspaper are looking forward to producing the 2,000th edition.
And to celebrate this milestone an informal gathering, to which all those who have ever been involved with the talking newspaper are invited, is being held next Saturday.
“Since 1978, hundreds of volunteers have contributed on a regular or occasional basis, so much so that it has proved impossible to track down or name all those who have helped,” explained the talking newspaper’s chairman Pippa Munro-Hebden.
“In the hope of being able to thank as many people as possible, there will be an informal celebration of the 2,000th edition in the Ribble Valley Mayor’s Parlour on October 7th from 2 to 4pm to which everyone is invited.
“Coffee and – if the good fairies who bake for us do their stuff – cake will be available to help the celebrations.
“We hope to see as many of our volunteers as possible. You can be sure of our warmest thanks – and possibly a piece of cake as well.”
Over the years, the technology involved in producing the talking newspaper has changed, and visually impaired listeners now receive a CD through the post which they can listen to at their leisure.
“It’s a vital way for those who cannot read the local paper to keep in touch with what is going on and what is due to happen over the coming weeks,” said Pippa.
“We still record news of births, marriages and deaths, news from the villages, the successes of charities and all the things that make up a local newspaper.”
As well as the changes in technology, the venue where the talking newspaper is recorded has changed too.
The first recording studio was a rather cold and gloomy room which had been part of the borough housing department and is now part of Clitheroe Library.
There was then a brief stay at Castleford Home for the Elderly, before the recording of the talking newspaper was relocated to the studio of the Pendle Club, Lowergate, Clitheroe, where it is recorded every Thursday evening.
Pippa recalled some of the challenges that volunteers have faced when recording the talking newspaper.
“I gather, in the past, there were some hilarious occasions of volunteers struggling to read out the farming stock prices. Nowadays, it is often some of the lesser known initials of organisations and the vast increase in internet addresses that puzzle us,” she said.
The edition of October 5th, 2017, will the 2,000th time that the teams of volunteers – admin teams, editors, reading group co-ordinators and readers backed up by a hard-working committee – have prepared, recorded, copied and sent out the news in the distinctive yellow pouches. To keep things simple, the pouches have a reversible address label so that they easily get back to the talking newspaper.