In 1968, senior librarian Ronald Sturt was in Sweden studying public library services for disabled people. While in Vasteras, in northern Sweden, he discovered that the local association for the blind had teamed with the library to record readings of the local newspaper for the blind.
Back home in Aberystwyth, his enthusiastic talks about the experience drew the offer of financial support from the local Round Table.
So, on 1st January 1970, Sturt launched the first Talking Newspaper in the UK, based in Cardiganshire. That day, cassette tapes dropped through the letterboxes of twenty blind people in Cardiganshire.
As the word spread, Talking Newspapers began to spring up in other parts of the country. By 1974, a national body (Talking Newspaper Association of the United Kingdom) was formed to unite local Talking Newspapers and stimulate the growth of others across the country.
There are now 1,054 newspapers and magazines recorded by Talking Newspapers; these recordings are facilitated by 9,000 volunteers and distributed to 25,000 listeners every week. More than 300 Talking Newspapers deliver local news and information in both audio and print to disabled people across the country.
Our chairman, Robert Nolan, personally supports his local Talking Newspaper organisations. He was even interviewed as a local person of interest in 2019 by Sheffield Talking News for an ‘Out & About in Sheffield’ feature in their own magazine.
Some organisations offer a range of formats for their recordings. For example, Sheffield Talking News can offer recordings on USB sticks, which can be delivered free of charge through the Royal Mail. Some organisations even use online platforms for distribution. It may be worth checking with your local Talking Newspaper to see what formats they can provide their recordings in.
The ‘Talking Newspaper’ app can also be accessed on a range of smart devices. When Sturt distributed those twenty cassette tapes some 50 years ago, he would have never imaged that one day you could have your Talking Newspaper in your pocket!
Click here to find your local TN (Talking News Federation UK) and ‘Find a Talking Newspaper’, or call 01793 497555.