Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspaper is a “lifeline”

Haydn and Marrilyn Thomas of Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspapers with listener Heidi James an

Haydn and Marrilyn Thomas of Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspapers with listener Heidi James and her dog Spencer. Ref shs 39 18TI 2167. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Volunteers provide a weekly round-up of local news stories in audio format, for people with visual impairments

A talking newspaper service for people in the Sidmouth area with visual impairments has been described as a ‘lifeline’ by one of its listeners.

The Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspaper is a weekly recording of local news stories and features from the newspapers in the area, including the Sidmouth and Ottery Herald. It now has around 60 regular listeners.

Sidmouth resident Heidi James said: “It’s a lifeline really. Without it I would feel very isolated, because I wouldn’t know what was going on in the community and the surrounding area. I’m very grateful for it.”

But earlier this year, the talking newspaper service was in need of a lifeline itself after some of its long-standing volunteers stepped down after more than 20 years. Fortunately, during what could have been the organisation’s final meeting, a new management committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Haydn Thomas. His wife Marilyn came on board as secretary, and Wendy Eagles as registrar. Mr Thomas, a retired deputy principal of the Exeter-based WESC Foundation for learners with visual impairment, embarked on a drive to publicise the service and recruit volunteers.

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“Over the last few months we have put a lot of effort into promoting it in doctors’ surgeries, health centres and opticians, and we’ve increased by 14 listeners,” he said. “We now have about 50 volunteers – readers, editors, producers and people who carry out the registering. There are seven teams and each team is doing a recording every week.”

He said the talking newspaper includes local news items and ongoing issues such as the beach management plan and the sale of the district council HQ at Knowle. “We always do a what’s on feature, and we select the events that are suitable for people with visual impairment.”

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The service also produces a quarterly magazine. The new committee carried out a survey of listeners and found that, while some would have liked additional features such as sports coverage, the talking newspaper is very popular. “The feedback has been totally positive,” said Mr Thomas. “People look forward to it. People are happy with the items that we choose, and the talking magazine is particularly highly thought of.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the service should contact:

The Registrar

Wendy Eagles

PO Box 12 Sidmouth EX10 9DD

Tel: 07552 766382

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