Hear is the news

The talk­ing news­pa­per Chat­ter­box – which also records EDP Nor­folk mag­a­zine for blind and visu­ally im­paired lis­ten­ers each month - is cel­e­brat­ing a spe­cial an­niver­sary

EDP Norfolk - - Charity -

YOU may well have walked or driven past it, es­pe­cially if you’ve been to see Nor­wich City play at Car­row Road. Re­cently it has been given a bright new ‘shopfront’ with its name and logo above the door, but still, to the passerby there are not many clues to the fan­tas­tic work, ded­i­ca­tion and bril­liant ser­vice that hap­pens here.

Pe­tersen House, on King Street, Nor­wich, is the home – and record­ing stu­dio – of Chat­ter­box, which pro­vides a talk­ing news­pa­per and mag­a­zine ser­vice for lis­ten­ers who are blind or visu­ally im­paired. In March it cel­e­brates its 40th an­niver­sary and 2,000th edi­tion of the record­ing which goes out to hun­dreds of lis­ten­ers with a vis­ual or as­so­ci­ated dis­abil­ity around Nor­wich and be­yond each week.

Chat­ter­box, The Nor­wich Talk­ing News­pa­per, was founded in 1978 by Meg Mug­gridge, Stan Pe­tersen and Bob Walker, then ed­i­tor of the Nor­wich Evening News. Tim Ed­wards, one of the sound recordists for Chat­ter­box, ex­plains: “Stan Pe­tersen had a friend who was visu­ally im­paired and he used to go round to read him the news­pa­per. Stan couldn’t make it one day, so he got hold of a cas­sette recorder and taped him­self read­ing the news­pa­per so that he could drop it off for his friend to lis­ten to.”

Stan’s idea gave rise to the Chat­ter­box record­ings – the Nor­wich or­gan­i­sa­tion was part of the grow­ing move­ment that now in­cludes about 500 groups in the UK with record­ings tak­ing place across Nor­folk and Suf­folk. As well as news­pa­pers, the Chat­ter­box teams cre­ate au­dio ver­sions of EDP Nor­folk and sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Let’s Talk every month.

Orig­i­nally the record­ings were put on to tape cas­settes but are now on mem­ory sticks, dis­patched every week at no charge to lis­ten­ers and de­liv­ered free by Royal Mail.

Chat­ter­box is run by around 90 vol­un­teers, di­vided into four teams who each work one week in four. On the Chat­ter­box EDP Nor­folk team are co-or­di­na­tors Julie Courte­nay-Smith and Sarah Lusher, ed­i­tors Linda Jones, An­drea Mear­ing and Les­ley Fish, read­ers Ru­pert Hip­well, Sarah Kings, Richard Fox­ton, John Fran­cis, Judy Hawkins, Caro­line Ol­drey and sound en­gi­neer Ed­die Elmhirst. Brenda Smith, Liz Al­lard, Les­ley and Derek Ma­cLeod are part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion team.

At its peak Chat­ter­box went to nearly 1,000 lis­ten­ers; to­day about 400 record­ings are sent out. Al­ter­na­tive ways of re­ceiv­ing news and de­vel­op­ments in eye surgery mean the num­bers have dropped; but, as Meg Mug­gridge used to say, she “would be glad to go out of busi­ness, to not be a re­quired ser­vice”.

On March 1, its 2,000th edi­tion will be recorded with spe­cial guest ap­pear­ances from the High Sher­iff of Nor­folk and the Lord Mayor of Nor­wich.Š cbtn.org.uk

Part of the team for EDP Nor­folk Chat­ter­box edi­tion:Richard Fox­ton, John Fran­cis, Judy Hawkins, Caro­line Ol­drey, Julie Courte­nay-Smith and Ed­die Elmhurst

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