Harold Wood charity the Havering Talking Newspaper talks to the Recorder about its work

Who records the Recorder?

The Havering Talking Newspaper – that’s who. Each week for the last 37 years, a dedicated team of unpaid volunteers for the Harold Wood-based charity has made voice recordings of local Havering news for the benefit of the borough’s blind and partially sighted.

Volunteer newsreaders and a sound engineer meet on a Thursday to put together a 110-minute news bulletin on a memory stick, which is then sent out to 200 homes.

“In 37 years, we’ve only ever not supplied on three weekends, because of postal strikes or terrible weather,” said coordinator and sound engineer Bob Wickington, 68.

The team of 30, which sends out about 10,000 memory sticks a year, supplies each of its customers with a memory stick player on free loan. Every week, a new stick arrives in a bright yellow pouch, containing about 40 spoken news stories – and lots more.

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“We used to use C62 cassettes, but in April last year we switched to memory sticks, which have a capacity of 1 hour 50 minutes,” said Bob.

“Now we’ve got this extra capacity, people are prepared to do features for us.”

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Anyone who takes the Havering Talking Newspaper can enjoy regular slots on sport, gardening, composers, entertainment and shopping – even extracts from a book about a Yorkshire policeman, read by volunteer Graham Pearson, who is gifted what Bob calls “a perfect Northern voice”.

The creation of the talking paper is a finely-tuned process that begins every Friday as the Recorder is published.

“The news coordinator will get two newspapers and sit at the kitchen table,” said Bob. “We don’t read the Recorder from cover to cover – it’s very selective. We try and balance happy and sad news, but it’s hard because some weeks it’s all rape, murder and pillage.”

Over the following days, news stories are cut out and mounted onto card, and a little editing takes place to keep them in date. Then on Thursday evening the action begins.

“We start recording at 7.30,” said Bob. “Once the readers and news coordinator have gone home, the engineer does a little bit of editing, taking out the odd cough and splutter.”

Staff members at the talking newspaper include a few naturals who had to rely on good speaking voices during their working lives.

“A few of our people are ex-teachers,” explained Bob, who himself used to work for an advertising firm.

If you would like to start receiving the free Havering Talking Newspaper, please call 01708 449 409 and ask for Gwyn Halliwell.

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