Turn the sound on to hear the news

EVER wondered how blind or the partially sighted get their Evening Star?Well 30 years ago today a talking newspaper was set up by a group of volunteers keen to ensure those in our region who can't see to read still keep up with all their local news.

EVER wondered how blind or the partially sighted get their Evening Star?

Well 30 years ago today a talking newspaper was set up by a group of volunteers keen to ensure those in our region who can't see to read still keep up with all their local news.

Feature writer JAMES MARSTON reports on his visit to a recording.

FOR three decades The Evening Star has been made available to those in our community who are blind or partially sighted.

It was 30 years ago that a group of individuals saw the need to let some of the most isolated members of our community know what's going on around them.

With support from The Star and premises in our Lower Brook Street offices the group set up Sound On, a talking newspaper.

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Sound On chairman Eileen Damant said: “Sound on is for blind and partially sighted people. It gives them the news from a week of editions of The Evening Star.

“It is recorded on to tapes on a Thursday and sent out each weekend to about 380 people in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Woodbridge and Felixstowe and some villages.

“There are about 80 volunteers in all working on a rota system.”

Eileen explained the process of turning a newspaper into a talking newspaper.

Editing - “There is one editor each week. He makes the script by taking a selection of stories from the week's newspapers. He edits and removes phrases like 'Mr So-and-so pictured above'.”

Unpacking - “The unpackers collect the tapes which are delivered to the evening star offices. They are cleaned in preparation for new recording and sorted into areas for distribution.”

Reading - “We have four readers who work with recorders to make a master tape of stories.”

Copying/checking - “The tape is copied and checked.”

Sorting - “The sorters check each tape to make sure there is a tape for each person on our books.”

Eileen said: “I think a lot of people think we just read the paper and record it on to a tape but there's a lot more to it than that.”

Listeners to Sound On are often very appreciative.

Eileen added: “Often they are aware of national stories and news from the television and radio but not news in their own community.

“They want to know what's going on around them, who are making the news and stories about the issues that affect them and their lives.”

The post office sends the tapes through the mail system free of charge.

Eileen said: “We use a variety of articles. Not just the news but features and columns.”

She said Sound On has reached an important milestone by reaching its 30th anniversary.

She added: “I'm delighted we've been doing this for 30 years. We are all volunteers and it's great to know we are helping to make people's lives more interesting and stimulating.”

Volunteer June Richardson was one of the original readers for Sound On.

She said: “I started in October 1977. Carol Carver, a lady who worked at the Star and helped set up Sound On was in the same amateur dramatics group, asked me if I would be interested in becoming a reader.

“It's something that appealed to me as a way of helping others.”

June, 79, of Ringham Road, Ipswich, said she prefers reading the human interest stories.

She said: “What we don't like is council stories about planning applications or something dull like that. I like to hear about people.

“I read once every five weeks.”

June said that 30 years ago Sounds On didn't have the dedicated rooms it enjoys today.

She said: “We would move around in different places and it all took a lot longer to set up. We once used to record in a corridor.

“It does keep me informed about what's going on, I never need to take the paper.”

June said she has kept her Suffolk accent when she records.

She said: “You have to be clear and not gabble but also not speak too slowly. You can have a bit of a giggle in your voice if something is funny.

“It's a nice thing to do. I like to think of people at the other end feeling part of the community.”

For volunteer David Winter reading for Sound On is something he has enjoyed.

He said: “I knew one of the previous editors and he asked me if I would like to do it. I went along to the library in Northgate Street and we all had a sort of audition. We all read a little bit and then I found myself on the rota.”

David said he has developed a technique.

He said: “You learn to have your eye a few sentences ahead of what you are reading. We prefer short pieces to read rather than the long involved stories. You can also edit it yourself or improve the grammar a bit as you go along.”

David said there have been readers with different accents.

He said: “We had a German reader who had a strong accent and a reader with a very strong Suffolk accent.”

He added: “I don't do many things for other people and this is the only thing I do for somebody else. Over the years its been a lot of fun.”

Do you listen to Sound On? What do you think of the talking newspaper service? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

There are more than 500 local and independent talking newspapers across the United Kingdom

Who listens?

The service is primarily aimed at blind and partially sighted people.

How is the news sent to the listener?

The large majority of listeners receive their local Talking Newspaper on cassette tapes.

If you cannot read

A large amount of information that others take for granted is not available to you. The Talking Newspaper brings independence; you no longer need to rely on a sighted friend to read for you and you can re-read whenever and as often as you like.

Keeping in touch

The Talking Newspaper not only makes blind and partially sighted people aware of what is happening on their own doorstep, but enables them to contribute more actively in conversations instead of always being on the receiving end

A weekly visit by a friend

The Talking Newspaper has become an essential service for blind and partially sighted people, usually backed by regular visits from Talking Newspaper volunteers.

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This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

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