History of the Redbridge Talking Newspaper
The first United Kingdom Talking Newspapers for the Blind were set up in the early 1970's. Now, there are well over 500 Talking Newspaper groups operating in the UK. Their day-to-day running costs are normally met by fund raising activities, donations or local authority grants. They are based upon local authority boundaries as Listeners are mostly referred by the local Social Services after they have been registered as blind or partially sighted.
Almost all Talking Newspapers are charities and were originally sponsored by one of the service organisations such as Lions International, Rotary or Round Table. Redbridge Talking Newspaper for the Blind was originally sponsored by the Redbridge Lions and started life in 1976.
In 1975 John Slade, Chairman of Ilford Blind Welfare Association led an appeal for help in organising a talking newspaper in Redbridge. Redbridge Lions were willing to support the project financially and Reg Smith, one of the members of the Lions, stepped outside of the club with other members to help John organise RTN.
With help from the Havering Talking Newspaper we learnt that £4,000 was needed for equipment to record and produce the audio cassettes. Plus about sixty volunteers were needed. They would form teams working rotas to carry out the tasks: producing, copying and sending out the weekly editions.
A public meeting was held in June 1976 chaired by the Mayor of Redbridge Councillor Fred Mountier. At the meeting the Mayor formed the first committee which was chaired by Reg. Donations of £1,000 were made to RTN by the Lions and Ilford Blind Welfare and over the next six months the remainder of the money needed was raised and so, led by Peter Grove, we were able to record the first C60 tape in December 1976.
Equipment was purchased for recording and copying the tape however Redbridge Council could not provide any suitable accommodation for doing the recording. Bernard Sills who had his own recording studio in Ilford heard of our plight and volunteered the use of his studio which was in a cellar in New Road, Seven Kings. Reg's wife Olive organised the copying of the tape in the kitchen of their home. The tape continued to be recorded at Mr. Sills studio until Marjorie Taylor the Head of Social Services found RTN a room for copying the tapes at a Day Centre in Hainault.
Reg and RTN’s committee continued looking out for something more permanent. In 1979 we learnt that a Methodist church in Ilford was looking for an organisation to lease some space. Paul Campbell drew up plans for a sound room and recording studio and a local builder was brought in carry out the main construction. The studio opened in 1980.
By 2005, when cassette machines were becoming obsolete, we first considered a move to CDs. These were rejected as they weren’t reusable, not eco-friendly and the weekly cost would have been high, so we stayed with tape. In 2013 with USB memory sticks becoming cheaper and with specially designed memory stick players being available we made the decision to go digital and move to USB memory sticks. There was a lot of preparation involved and RTN sent out the first edition on memory stick in March 2014.
Covid-19 update: To protect our volunteers and their families we suspended production on Mar 19th 2020 and then resumed with a monthly edition from August 2020. We will review the situation over time in line with Government announcements.