Talking Paper

Church News | Sunday, 20 September 2015 |

By Joan

Mr Dick Petley - Photo: Essex Chronicle -

Mr Dick Petley - Photo: Essex Chronicle -

A devoted group of volunteers including Dick Petley who have recorded the Essex Chronicle for 40 years for blind and partially-sighted people are celebrating their 2,000th edition. The Chelmsford and District Talking Newspaper celebrated the milestone on Thursday last week with a special audio magazine. Chairman Pat Wilson, 83, of Longstomps Avenue, Chelmsford, said: "We are such an important service, because people who get someone else to read the newspaper to them might only read the things that they think will be interesting to the listener, whereas we tell them everything in the paper. "It's such a valuable service as it gives people a new outlook."

Starting in 1975 with 75 listeners, the talking newspaper at one point had 300 subscribers. Today, 120 people are on their mailing list, and at least one is an original listener.

It was started by Aberystwyth University lecturer Robert Sturt when he moved into the area, after seeing it done in Sweden. In tribute to her late husband, former Chelmsford mayor Felicity Sturt edited and presented the 90-minute anniversary recording. Ms Wilson, who is also a keep fit instructor, said: "For this edition, I got people to write down their memories to be read in the recording, as well as putting in our very first recording, and the very first digital recording. "I lived opposite Robert's daughter, and she asked me whether I was free on Friday mornings to take part, and I of course said 'yes'."

The weekly programme is entirely dependent on its 48 volunteers, who form teams of editors, readers, administrators and technicians to deliver the free service. Volunteers organise and produce a weekly recording at Longmead House, in Redwood Drive, Writtle, after the editor has selected and sorted the articles into a running order. The recording is then put on to 80 USB copies and a master cassette, with the admin team duplicating a further 50 cassettes the following morning. They then issue the latest edition to members in special wallets for a Saturday morning delivery. "It's a lovely way to meet people," said Ms Wilson. "That's definitely the best part of the job.

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