It is now more than thirty years since the Bodmin Volunteer Bureau identified in June 1988 the need for a Talking Newspaper in the Community. In the following month, July, the first meeting was held for those responding to publicity in the Cornish Guardian. A committee, under the Chairmanship of Bill Allen from Bodmin Community College, now Bodmin College, was formed consisting of Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer/Assistant Secretary, Co-Ordinator, Rota Organiser Press and Publicity with the addition of other volunteers wishing to participate. It is felt to be crucial to have at least one visually impaired person on the Committee and this has been achieved by having, both the present Chairman and original Secretary registered.
The Association was duly named and advice sought from the National Association of Talking Newspapers with one of their representatives giving a talk on producing a Talking Newspaper and how to get started. Gradually news spread of the formation of the local group and we were able to welcome additional members.
The Objective was (and is) to distribute to those local residents with impaired eyesight, a cassette tape on which had been recorded items of local news selected from various newspapers published in Cornwall. Distribution would also be made to any physically impaired person who might request inclusion on the list. There would be a weekly edition.
Six months after the formation of the North Cornwall & District Talking Newspaper we received the loan equipment from National Association which enabled plans for producing the first tape to go ahead whilst providing experience for the selection of the necessary equipment. The following two months were spent in training and development of the recording and copying as well as organizing the various teams.
So, on 2nd March 1989 we made and produced our first recording for distribution to our initial ten listeners.
Initial funding was generously provided by the Lions Clubs of Bodmin, Tintagel & Camelford, Wadebridge, Newquay and Padstow; Round Table of Bodmin; the Rotary Clubs of Bodmin, Padstow and Wadebridge; Cornwall Dogs for the Blind and St. John’s Guild for the Blind; Cornwall County Association for the Blind; The Duchy of Cornwall and the Cornwall Masonic Benefit Trust.
Local Companies also contributed as have other Community organizations and we, ourselves, also raised considerable funds. Donations from grateful listeners and bequests have covered our day to day running costs as have other private donations and fund-raising.
The Talking Newspaper is now recorded onto a USB memory stick.
The weekly session is carried out in a well established manner by a group of six volunteers working to a rota made up from a group of some forty volunteers, many of whom have been with the Association from the very beginning. The time-table is:
EDITOR: Thursday morning – obtain papers, select items and paste on boards
READERS (3): Thursday evening – in turn reading articles/news extracted from the local papers and pasted on board for recording
ENGINEER: Thursday evening – operates technical equipment to produce master USB memory stick
COPIER: Friday morning - sufficient copies of memory stick are made from the master, which are then mailed to the listeners.
With the exception of the three weeks when the College is closed at Christmas and Easter, the recordings are sent out weekly for the remaining forty-nine weeks, recordings have only been missed on very rare occasions.
The North Cornwall & District Talking Newspaper Association has always received active support from the Bodmin Comprehensive School, later re-named Bodmin College, and our first ‘home’ was at the Harleigh site where accommodation was made available each week. In addition to the need for erecting and dismantling the equipment each week, the environment was not particularly soundproof. The offer from Bodmin Community College was gratefully accepted and has been our ‘home’ for many years.
A free service is offered by Royal Mail for the dispatch and return of the memory sticks. Each stick is inserted into a special plastic pouch containing the listener’s address label and on the reverse side the return address with the right hand corner removed to enable the listener to select the return address for posting.
Security of the disadvantaged is of paramount importance and is the main reason that the Association neither solicits nor canvasses those wishing to receive a USB memory stick.
Applications for the memory stick are usually received either through Social Services or similar community groups or directly from those wishing to be added to our list. North Cornwall & District Talking Newspapers currently has 60 listeners to whom the memory sticks are mailed of which an average of 30 each week return their sticks for exchange with the current issue.
The service is provided by volunteers and is free of charge to recipients. Full instructions are provided and all of our listeners find it easy to use and are delighted.
Article Updated Dec 2018