Hear all about it. Our ‘talking paper’ is celebrating 35 years

Witney Gazette: Witney Talking News members, from left, Graham Diacon, Debi Diacon, Peter Bee, Doreen Turner, Mike Grantham and Gabi the dog Buy this photo Witney Talking News members, from left, Graham Diacon, Debi Diacon, Peter Bee, Doreen Turner, Mike Grantham and Gabi the dog

EACH week, thousands read the Oxford Mail’s sister paper, the Witney Gazette.

But there are many who can’t because they suffer from eyesight problems.

So, each week, a group of volunteers read the news to them on computer files sent to homes.

Now Witney Talking News has celebrated its 35 years of keeping more than 100 residents up to date on local news.

Chairman Peter Bee said: “It’s a very important service to the listeners we have. They really appreciate the service that we provide.

It makes them feel connected and plugged into the local news, which is very important especially to the elderly population.”

The former Witney Round Table member set up the service after learning about Hereford Talking News from a round table member he met on a train.

The Witney group set up its own branch in 1979 and raised £4,500 to buy audio tapes and recording equipment.

They initially recorded at Witney Town Hall but moved to the High Street Methodist Church in 2011.

Mr Bee, a retired quantity surveyor of New Yatt Road, Witney, said: “We started producing casettes and we issued about 30 originally.

“We did it every two weeks but after a few years we started producing them weekly.

“The numbers steadily increased over the years and we got to nearly 200 people at one stage but now we do it for about 100 people. It’s very rewarding because of the service we’re providing.”

About 12 volunteers, drawn from a pool of more than 60 people, are involved in each recording through roles like editor, engineer and readers.

They used to record on cassettes but four years ago they went digital and memory sticks are now delivered through the post to listeners for free.

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The listeners return them to volunteers, who clear the devices for new recordings.

Mr Brading said the charity had always been well-supported: “The funding has enabled us to do everything we wanted to do.

“If the demand is there we will keep going for another 35 years and beyond.”

Administrative secretary Doreen Turner, who has volunteered for 12 years, said: “The best part is meeting our listerners when we go to deliver the playback machines because they are all such nice people.”

Witney Gazette: Founder Peter Brading, left, with Edward Allen in 1979

Mike Grantham, 77, blind since 11 and the charity’s blind representative, said: “It’s very important and interesting because it does more than the local radio news and gives more details on what’s going on in West Oxfordshire.

“It’s our main link to what’s going on locally and I always look forward to receiving the memory stick.”

For more information on the service or to help out contact Mrs Turner on 01993 200678.

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