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Reporter:

Lois Hough

TALKING newspaper marks 35 years of recordings

A pioneering talking newspaper is celebrating a milestone birthday.

The West Shropshire Talking Newspaper – which provides a free, digital news service for blind and partially sighted people across the county – is marking its 35th anniversary.

More than 100 volunteers scour local newspapers for stories and compile a 60-minute recording which is dropped through the letterbox of a 300-strong audience.

The newspaper was launched in 1976 by film-maker Philip Donnellan and friend Tony Banyard in a cramped attic atop St Mary’s Street, Shrewsbury, where recordings were made on an old-fashioned cassette tape.

Now it is delivered from a state-of-the-art studio in Cross Hill where recordings are made on a slick USB stick which is track-marked to enable listeners to choose between news, features, sport, and area reports.

Presenter Alan Wilding has been with the newspaper from the beginning.
He told Shrewsbury Living: “We started life in a little attic room but we would get a lot of traffic noise which would interfere with our recording.

“So when an opportunity came up at the Fletcher Centre we jumped at it.

“We record about 60 stories – some of them long and some of them short.

“A cassette player would only record 30 minutes on each side and it was difficult for our listener to rewind or fast forward because they wouldn’t know when to stop the tape.

“There is so much more flexibility with a memory stick because everything is recorded in chapters and the listener can choose from their computer which chapter they want to hear.”

USB sticks are delivered every Thursday to audience members who take the weekend to enjoy the recording before using a freepost service to send it back to the team.

Alan says their next venture is to send the recording via the internet.

“Now it is all about raising our profile because not everyone knows we exist,” he added.

“We would welcome any new audience members and any volunteers who would like to help out the team.”

The newspaper costs an average £10,000 a year to run and replace specialised equipment and consumables, and relies entirely on volunteers and donations to keep going.

If you would like to volunteer, call 01743 364726 or visit www.wstn.org.uk

See full story in the Leader

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