It is an invaluable service helping to expand the world of those who live without sight.
Launched in the 1980s, the Talking Telegraph has entertained hundreds of listeners over the years. While its numbers may have dwindled, technological advances in the way people access the news in the Telegraph & Argus has retained it as an integral part of the lives of those who are partially sighted and blind.
The Talking Telegraph opens up a new world for those who struggle to see. Listening to voices brings company to those who spend more time within their own four walls; it informs them of what is going on in the world and within their own communities.
This free service, delivered by a dedicated team of volunteers, is the lasting legacy of Tom Burgess, of Shipley. Tom was blind and knew the benefits the service could bring to those in similar situations.
Back then, there were 200 or so listeners – today the audience has been halved, but the service remains essential to those who continue to access it.
By the end of this month, baby boom boxes will be distributed to listeners along with memory sticks. These will replace the cassette recordings members currently receive.
Philip Ackroyd, one of the team of volunteers dedicated to the service’s delivery, explains: “Tapes are still available, but obviously access to tape recorders isn’t easy now so we feel we have to move into the digital age.
“It is the biggest exercise we have ever done.”
Once delivered, members of the team will give a demonstration to listeners so they know how to use them.
One of the beneficiaries of the new technology is stalwart listener Christopher Huby whose association with the service spans a decade. The 40-year-old from Low Moor lost the majority of his sight after being diagnosed with hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) when he was just a year old.
His introduction to the Talking Telegraph came through a school. “It is a really good facility and it is essential because unfortunately I can’t read any of the print at all so it’s an absolute lifeline to get the newspaper on audio,” says Chris.
He also welcomes the new technology. “It will make it so much easier because I don’t have a tape machine any more, so this upgrade is absolutely fantastic and the format will be better and include more. I can’t speak highly enough of it,” he says.
The process of recording the articles remains the same, with editors and readers meeting at a Shipley church to decide what articles to record. The articles are then cut out and pasted on to boards to avoid any background noise, such as rustling of paper, while reading.
The recordings are made within a soundproof facility at Bradford Talking Media. From there, they are delivered free through the Royal Mail in special wallets to listeners who look forward to keeping up with the latest news.
While the majority of listeners still live within the city and district, others live further afield in places as far as Wales and Cornwall.
“It keeps Bradford people in touch with their roots,” says Philip.
His involvement with the Talking Telegraph is a natural progression of a profession delivering the news around his home city. For almost 30 years, Philip ran a newsagents shop at Bolton Junction, Eccleshill. He recalls employing more than 30 paper boys and girls in the 1960s and 1970s to deliver the Telegraph & Argus.
Following his retirement, Philip decided to volunteer with the Talking Telegraph. “When I retired, I felt I wanted to do something. This cropped up and always, through work, I’ve had an affinity with news and the distribution of news,” says Philip.
Seven years since joining the Talking Telegraph, Philip is instrumental in helping it to move with the times and now he is hoping to encourage others to help deliver this worthwhile service.
Volunteers don’t need any qualifications as training will be given. “They just need to want to help,” says Philip.
Anyone who can spare a few hours on a Thursday or Friday morning is asked to get in touch with the Talking Telegraph on (01274) 551184. Anyone who has a family member who is blind or partially sighted and would like to benefit from the Talking Telegraph can also call the above number.