THE Telegraph & Argus has been a city institution for generations and since the mid-1980s the Talking Telegraph has stood alongside as a service for those with sight problems.

However the service, which is run entirely by volunteers, has now launched an appeal to find new recordists to assist in production duties and also to make more blind or partially sighted residents aware that it is available.

At its peak the Talking Telegraph was distributed to more than 130 listeners, using a free postal service to allow them to receive and return cassette tapes through the post without charge.

But data protection rules mean the organisation no longer has direct access to details of those registered blind and rely on them finding out about the service through word of mouth.

The result is that demand has fallen, with around 80 copies now distributed weekly although the service has the capacity to send out more.

Old fashioned cassette tapes were replaced earlier this year with computer memory sticks, which can be used for duplicate recordings and can be played through 'boom boxes' which were bought with funds raised through donations and supplied to all listeners.

The Talking Telegraph is produced by a team of around 40 volunteers, who take on a range of different tasks on a rota basis. That means recordists, who are trained to operate computerised recording equipment are needed for about two hours once every four weeks approximately.

Their task is to record speakers who read out stories chosen from the T&A for inclusion in one weekly edition of the Talking Telegraph, which also includes useful information such as late chemist opening details.

Talking Telegraph spokesman Mike Tomlinson said: "Changing to memory sticks was the biggest change for the Talking Telegraph in its history. It was done with money raised through donations and collections, we don't have any grants, and it has been successful.

"But we go through periods of time when we have fewer listeners and numbers have been falling for some time.

"We don't get to know about people being on the visual impairment register because of data protection so it is difficult connecting with visually impaired people," he said.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering with the Talking Telegraph, or is interested in receiving copies, should contact Mr Tomlinson by telephone, 01274 571074.