TALKING NEWSPAPER MOVES INTO DIGITAL AGE THANKS TO £3,000 NEWCASTLE BUILDING SOCIETY GRANT.
A long-standing Northumberland talking newspaper project is moving into the digital age thanks to a four figure grant from the Alnwick branch of Newcastle Building Society.
For more than 30 years, The Alnwick Lions Club has produced a talking version of the Northumberland Gazette which is distributed free of charge to around 30 people with visual impairments around the county.
Teams of volunteers meet every fortnight to choose, read and record selected articles from the newspaper, with around 30 copies of the tapes being sent to readers as far north as Belford and Bamburgh, and as far south as Morpeth.
The tape recording equipment on which the talking newspaper was being produced had been becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and repair, with parts being almost impossible to source, and the Lions didn't have the funds in place to buy a replacement.
But now, after being nominated by Graham Luke, a customer at Newcastle Building Society's Bondgate Within branch in Alnwick and a member of the Talking Newspaper project committee, a £3,000 grant has been given to the Lions to pay for a range of new digital recording equipment, including two USB recorders, a mixing table, microphones, a wiring cabinet and Sovereign sonic players.
Each edition of the newspaper is now being distributed on a memory stick, with readers sending back the previous edition for future reuse.
The Lions are now looking into whether the talking newspaper can be produced on a weekly basis using the new equipment, and aiming to increase the numbers of people who both create and receive the newspapers.
The Newcastle Building Society funding has been provided by its Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which has been set up to provide grants to charities and community groups that are located in or around the communities served by the Society's branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.
Since its launch in 2016, the Fund has contributed £78,000 in grants to local projects, and is estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 70,000 people across the North East region so far.
The Alnwick Lions Club Charity Trust Fund is a registered charity which raises money for good causes, and awards grants to individauls and groups both locally and internationally.
As well as producing the talking newspaper, it also runs a second hand bookshop in the centre of Alnwick, through which most of its money is raised.
Graham Luke says: “The service we provide has always been very well received, and it helps to ensure that readers feel informed about and included in what's happening around the county.
"The Lions made a commitment a long time ago to keep funding the talking newspaper, but the problems we were having with the equipment were threatening our capacity to keep doing so.
"We only had the funds in place to buy the bare minimum of what we needed to keep things going, so the generous support we've had from Newcastle Building Society has been brilliant, and it's made a huge difference to what we're able to do.
"The quality of our recordings is so much higher now than it was before, and we're very hopeful of widening the talking newspaper's circulation in the coming months, as well as attracting even more people in to help with its production.”
The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. Grant applications for a maximum of £3,000 can be made in any Society branch or via the newcastle.co.uk website by customers who wish to support their local communities.
Stewart Nicol, manager at Newcastle Building Society's Alnwick branch, says: “The talking newspaper is very well known in our community, and the long-term dedication that the members of the Lions have put into producing it is second to none.
“As a mutual organisation, we look for ways in which we can give back to the areas in which we're based, and this grant will hopefully help sustain the talking newspaper for many more years to come."