The first Talking Newspaper in the UK was produced in Aberystwyth in 1970, based on a service offered in one town in Sweden.
The Colchester Talking Newspaper was the first to be produced in Essex, probably the first in England, and the fifth in the UK. That was in 1973.
In 1976 members of the Rotary Club of Southend-on-Sea heard about two more Talking Newspapers being set up in Essex.
They decided that they would develop one for blind people in their area. A joint committee was formed with ladies of the Southend Inner Wheel Club, to raise the cash, research and purchase the equipment, train their members and find some people who might like to listen to the end result.
Even today about half of the fifty or so people involved in the charity come from the ranks of Rotary and Inner Wheel Clubs of Southend-on-Sea Clubs and from the Thorpe Bay and Hadleigh Castle Clubs, assisted by others from church and secular groups.
The first Southend recordings were made in December 1977. The scheme proved successful, and in 1980 a new independent Charity was registered to carry it forward. The Charity operates under a Trust Deed, with Trustees and a management committee.
The original recordings were made at the home of the then Chairman, Ron Robinson. Studio space was then found in Queensway House for the next twenty five years or so with Brian Clarke at the helm. When ill health forced Brian to retire, Ron Farrall took over as Chairman until his death in 2015. Nigel Gayner, previously our technical expert, then took the chair.
When Queensway House was closed in 2012 we gladly accepted an offer from the Citizens Advice Bureau in Southend to make our recordings there.
When it began the recordings were distributed on tape cassette, and we supplied tape players where necessary. In 2006 we conducted a survey of listeners and found that about 95% of them owned CD players, and we changed to that format. In 2014 we began to offer USB flash drives (memory sticks) as an alternative and as a result of a recent charitable grant we are also able to provide a simple USB player free of charge where necessary, and this is proving to be very popular.
If you know anyone who is no longer able to read newspapers for themselves and who you think might welcome our service, please get in touch.