Talking newspaper gets digital upgrade thanks to £3k grant

Alnwick Lions Graham Luke, left, and Richard Hall, right, with Lee Willis, senior customer adviser at Newcastle Building Society's Alnwick branch.
Alnwick Lions Graham Luke, left, and Richard Hall, right, with Lee Willis, senior customer adviser at Newcastle Building Society's Alnwick branch.

A long-standing talking newspaper project is moving into the digital age, thanks to a £3,000 grant from a building society.

For more than 30 years, the Alnwick Lions Club has produced a talking version of the Gazette which is distributed free of charge to around 30 people with visual impairments in Northumberland.

Volunteers meet every fortnight to choose, read and record selected articles from the paper, with around 30 copies being sent to readers as far north as Belford and Bamburgh, and as far south as Morpeth.

The recording equipment on which the talking newspaper was being produced had been becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and repair, with parts being almost impossible to source, and the Lions didn’t have the funds in place to buy a replacement.

But after being nominated by Graham Luke, a customer at Newcastle Building Society’s Alnwick branch and a member of the Talking Newspaper project committee, a £3,000 grant has been given to the Lions to pay for a range of new digital recording equipment, including two USB recorders, a mixing table, microphones, a wiring cabinet and Sovereign sonic players.

Each edition of the newspaper is now being distributed on a memory stick and the Lions are now looking into whether the talking newspaper can be produced on a weekly basis.

Graham said: “The service we provide has always been very well received and it helps to ensure that readers feel informed about and included in what’s happening around the county.

“The Lions made a commitment a long time ago to keep funding the talking newspaper, but the problems we were having with the equipment were threatening our capacity to keep doing so.

“We only had the funds in place to buy the bare minimum of what we needed to keep things going, so the generous support we’ve had from Newcastle Building Society has been brilliant and it’s made a huge difference to what we’re able to do.

“The quality of our recordings is so much higher now than it was before and we’re very hopeful of widening the talking newspaper’s circulation in the coming months, as well as attracting even more people in to help with its production.”