The idea of a talking newspaper came from Sweden in the late sixties and the first British talking newspaper was created in Wales with the help of Round Table in 1970. The idea is to give those who are blind or partially sighted access to local news. Tameside’s talking newspaper was formed in 1978 and has been going strong ever since. Each week a set of readers gather to read from the local newspapers in the depths of Dukinfield Town Hall. I had been asked to join them as a guest reader for the week. When I arrived I was led to a side room in Dukinfield Town Hall that I didn’t know existed. It was a room with four microphones and a sound desk set up to record around a table. Ian greeted me and explained that he’d been a volunteer since nearly the beginning. Ian’s job was to record the readers and make copies for all of the listeners on memory sticks with the help of a handy machine. They were then posted out free of charge by the Royal Mail. The reading teams rotated so they each were on once a month, while the news went out weekly. The readers arrived and we were introduced. Pat, Sylvia, Richard and the leader of this team John. The aim was for each of us to take turns to read five minutes of stories until we reached an hour. Other things were added at the end including short stories and information that the listener might find helpful. The recording was done in one go and you picked some interesting stories beforehand and hoped that the person in front of you didn’t read your story first. I stuck to the Tameside Reporter but there were plenty of others to choose from.
John started the recording describing a family who were shaving their hair for charity, he was friendly and bubbly. John knew the family and was able to add extra details. I covered three different stories that I thought might be interesting and as I read each one I noticed everyone else hurriedly crossed them out in their newspapers. I guess I had picked some popular stories. I read a story about a lottery winner, a lost cat and a boy who wanted to be a bin man. I finished with an event that was going to have Edwina Curry attending. I later realised I hadn’t mentioned her full name. I knew it was Edwina Curry from her picture but I hadn’t mentioned it. I realised that the readers were doing more than just reading the stories but adding descriptions, describing the pictures or if there was a play on words. How many people are called Edwina?
When it was my time to read again I read my volunteering column out. After all if I didn’t who would. My column was a play on words combining the noise of a cat with the word perfect. I wish I had pointed it out but I didn’t realise this until afterwards. This was different to my experience with Tameside Radio. Although it seemed similar it was a whole new skill. I enjoyed it very much and everyone was very friendly. It didn’t feel as if there were any pressure just reading and conversation. I wondered if the same stories came around again if you’d been doing it as long as Ian. Each reader had their own style, accent and take on the stories. John’s voice was jolly, Richard’s calming and Pat and Sylvia’s friendly and knowledgeable. I realised it must be so personal to hear these voices in your own home every month especially nice if you didn’t have many visitors or felt lonely.
As we stuffed envelopes to be posted, the group spoke about people who had recognised them by their voices while they were out. John as he ushered people out of his local theatre and Richard as he stood talking in a supermarket. Richard who is from the North East originally is sometimes asked “what nationality are you?”
This week the same team will be back reading. I hope they read this and we will have come full circle, them reading my writing about them reading and me writing about my reading of my writing. If you think someone could benefit from this amazing talking newspaper them you can contact Tameside Sight at www.tamesidesight.org.uk or to help them as a volunteer as they are looking for people to help record.