Have you heard?

rtnLeft to right: Chichi Parish, Sally Dunbar and Paul Campbell

Voice-over artist Sally Dunbar gives us the inside story on the Redbridge Talking Newspaper, a weekly publication for those living with blindness or visual impairment. And as a free service, more volunteers are needed

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin… From the popularity of yesterday’s radio programmes like Listen with Mother, to the long-running TV show Jackanory, through to today’s boom in audiobooks, being read to is something we all respond to on a very instinctive level: the reassurance of a friendly voice in our ear; the shared experience of the story.

It is these kinds of human interactions that are integral to our existence. Something highlighted so strikingly during the pandemic, which denied us the enjoyment and comfort of social contact with others. For those living with blindness or visual impairment, however, those feelings didn’t necessarily go away when lockdown ended. A talking newspaper can help these people stay in contact with their local community.

As a voice-over artist, I spend much of my time talking to other people through the medium of radio and television; narrating stories, imparting information and being a reassuring voice. It is a job I love and have been doing for over 20 years. But it’s much more than a job. I also spend my free time reading to people and using these same skills in whatever way I can. So, when my friend, Chichi Parish, a volunteer news editor for the Redbridge Talking Newspaper (RTN), told me they were looking for more readers, I jumped at the chance.

RTN is run by a dedicated team of volunteers, headed up by Paul Campbell, whose enthusiasm and energy is inspiring. He dedicates much of his time to organising and running the team of around 50 volunteers, who put the talking newspaper together every week. Each edition runs for about 90 minutes and includes local headlines, news stories, a magazine feature, some music and a quiz. It is a free service and the programmes are copied onto memory sticks and posted out to about 50 listeners each week, with many more listening online.

“I’ve been listening to RTN for 20 years and particularly value the local news as it’s difficult for me to get this anywhere else, but the recordings really have something for everyone and are a wonderful achievement. I really appreciate so many people giving up time to produce them,” said listener Clare Gailans.

It’s marvellous to know that the RTN started life in 1976 and is still going strong today. Even during lockdown, production didn’t stop. We changed to monthly editions and all recorded from home. Thankfully, we’re now back in our Ilford studio, recording weekly again. We’re always looking for volunteer readers, news editors, engineers and more. If you’d like to get involved, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, why not have a listen to our latest edition? And, as all stories must come to an end… I’d like to wish you a happy ever after.

For more information on the Redbridge Talking Newspaper and to listen to the latest issue, visit swvg.co.uk/rtn