The Maidenhead & District Talking Newspaper Association is a registered charity which provides the Maidenhead Advertiser on USB flash drives to visually impaired people in Maidenhead and surrounding areas.
How It All Began
There had been a talking newspaper in Maidenhead as early as 1971, but the present Association was formed in April 1984 when Mrs. Tobitt of the Berkshire Blind Society wrote to the Maidenhead Lions Club to ask for help in setting up a talking newspaper on cassette. This had already been successful in Windsor and could reach a far wider audience than with open reel tape or the Clarke & Smith talking book format.
David Coldwell, who was the Lions’ Welfare Officer at the time, placed an advertisement in the Maidenhead Advertiser and as a result a small nucleus of volunteers was formed and fund raising began. One of the volunteers was David Wilding, then Headmaster of Ridgeway School at Maidenhead Thicket. Through him Ridgeway became the headquarters of the Association.
Maidenhead Rotary Club donated £3,000 to purchase cassette tape recording equipment, cassettes and mailers. The Maidenhead & District Talking Newspaper was registered as a charity in July 1984. David Coldwell became the first Chairman. He then became Chief Engineer organising the technical side and David Wilding succeeded him as Chairman.
At first the cassettes were delivered by hand because the listeners liked the personal contact but as the readership increased this became impracticable and they were sent by post using the GPO’s free Articles for the Blind service.
The photo shows the team assembled for the first recording session.
For 27 years we sent out programmes on Compact Cassettes, but nearly 50 years after its introduction the format was coming to the end of the line. Cassettes and players are still available but the high speed copiers are expensive to maintain. In the event of a breakdown we would have been dependent on spare units made redundant by other Talking Newspapers.
In June 2012 we switched to digital recording and distribution on USB Flash Drives (also known as “thumb drives”, “pen drives” or “memory sticks” *). These compact memory devices are sent out in the same wallets and can be played on a variety of equipment including personal computers, modern digital radios, televisions, Blu-Ray and DVD players. We provide dedicated USB players when required. We produced an instruction cassette to assist listeners with the changeover from cassettes.
A big advantage of the new technology is that we record each story onto a separate MP3 track, so that listeners can easily step forwards to the next track or back to listen to the same track again. The dedicated players will remember the track they were playing so that the listener can pick up where he or she left off after a break. Digital recording also means much clearer sound due to the absence of tape hiss and the ability to make clean edits.
The Association Today
We produce a weekly news programme which is based entirely on material from Maidenhead’s local newspaper, plus a monthly magazine which contains a wide variety of articles. Both programmes are around 90 minutes in length and are sent out in MP3 format on USB flash drives.
The weekly news programme is uploaded to the Maidenhead Advertiser web site, with links from this site - see Listen Online. The current magazine is also available on this site.
We have a number of news teams comprising an editor and three additional readers, plus two similar magazine teams and reserve readers. These are complemented by a number of recording technicians and separate teams which handle the duplication and distribution of flash drives. The Association is managed by a committee that includes a blind Listeners’ Representative. All are unpaid volunteers.
The Association is affiliated to the Talking News Federation (TNF) (formerly the Talking Newspaper Association of the United Kingdom (TNAUK)) and is generously supported by the Louis Baylis (Maidenhead Advertiser) Charitable Trust and other local charitable, corporate and individual sponsors.
If you wish to help in any way - by making a donation, by fundraising, by volunteering as a reader, or by helping in the technical or administrative areas - please contact us.
If you, or a friend or relative, are able to benefit from our service please contact us. The service is entirely free of charge to listeners, although in order to make use of the free postal service they must be registered blind or partially sighted. We will endeavour to get recordings to other people unable to read the printed paper through disability. We can provide playback equipment if required.
The flash drives are sent out in PVC wallets that are sealed with Velcro™. After listening to the programme the listener replaces the drive in the wallet, turns over the label which is located in a pocket on the front and posts the wallet back to us.
See What We Do - our rôles in the Association.
Left: A Sovereign USB MP3 player with a thumb drive inserted. Note the orange plastic “bump-ons” which indicate the correct orientation of the thumb drive.
Click on any picture for a larger version in a new window.
* please note that the Sony Memory Stick™ is a different form factor and does not have a USB interface. It should not be confused with the USB Flash Drive as pictured above.
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Last updated 31st March 2018