The Kings Lynn Talking Newspaper was started over 40 years ago as a joint venture between Kings Lynn Lions Club and Hospital Radio Kings Lynn in 1979 becoming independent in 1991.
The first edition recorded around Christmas had news and carols on it. It was recorded on an old reel to reel and any mistakes had to be cut out by the sound recordist John Greyson.
At this time Talking Newspapers were being started all over the country and some 700 were launched. Unfortunately with the advances in surgery particularly cataracts and young blind and partially sighted people using computers, the number of listeners has dropped so has the number of talking Newspapers.
In the last few years Chinwag at Downham Market has folded as has The Beacon from Hunstanton, their listeners transferring to us.
At Kings Lynn we used to have 200 listeners but are now down to about 120.
The first editors of the talking newspaper were drawn from the Lions Club and it was issued monthly to about 40 listeners. At this stage tape recording machines were available which enabled mistakes to be over recorded and compact audio cassettes were available to record the finished News. This made life a lot simpler.
In 1983 the Lions club decided to see if they could hand the newspaper over to the community. After several meetings the Kings Lynn Talking Newspaper Association was formed and moved to recording twice a month. Michael Forster was appointed Chairman, David Gifford Secretary and a small committee formed.
We realised that if we wanted to move to a weekly tape we would have to get our own equipment as there was no spare time at Hospital radio. This was done through lottery grants and donations from the Radio Norfolk Charity fund.
Volunteers were drawn from the community to record the tapes and to check each one for acceptable sound playback as they can vary in sound level and quality. This was done by several groups and individuals. These included the Round Table, Soroptimists and the Lioness club for many years.
We needed a home and a name. We were fortunate to use St Edmunds School in North Lynn for many years where the Head Master and Caretaker were so supportive. When that became unavailable we moved to Highgate Community Centre (owned by the council).
The building is used during the day by a Children’s Play School. We used it in the evening but this often involved moving equipment and furniture so it was not ideal.
We have always had a close association with the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind, NNAB. We get most of our referrals from them, so it was a very happy marriage to move into the Equipment centre at North Lynn to record and copy our tapes. The staff there have been absolutely brilliant.
We ran a competition in the Citizen to find a name and choose VISION LINK.
We had several teams of Controllers and readers who did their work on a Monday Night, while the copiers and checkers worked Tuesday night. There was another set of teams who cleaned the tapes and got address labels ready on a Monday night.
The equipment for copying tapes was over 20 years old and tthey were very expensive to maintain.
We needed to change – and looked at what other bigger and better Talking Newspapers were doing. Some had moved to CD’s but the majority had moved to digital recording and copying on to a USB memory stick.
Our friends at Wymondham were very helpful in showing us how the equipment works, so we took the bull by the horns and in 2013 moved to digital recording, copying onto a memory stick and giving each of our listeners a boom box to play them.
The sound reproduction is brilliant and the machine that copies the sticks is so consistent that we now no longer need a team of checkers.
But how do you get the message across about using a USB player,often called a Boom box, to our listeners. The NNAB were very helpful in dealing with everyone who lived outside Kings Lynn, their community workers showing them how to use it. Whilst David Gifford dealt with everyone living in Kings Lynn.
There were some teething problems, like people forgetting to plug the Boom box in and letting the internal battery run down, but mainly the move has been a tremendous success. The total cost to us was in the order of £8,000.
So we are now the only Talking Newspaper in West Norfolk having absorbed Downham and Hunstanton and are well set up for the future.
How much longer will we continue, 5 years,10 years who knows. It would be nice to put ourselves out of business, but whilst there are people who are blind or who have failing sight, we will be there to help them.