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Snow blizzards, strikes and a Norwich City FC defeat: Listen to the news on this day 40 years ago

PUBLISHED: 13:33 01 February 2019

Lord Mayor of Norwich Martin Schmierer with Chatterbox volunteers at the special 40th anniversary recording. Photo: Bethany Wales

Lord Mayor of Norwich Martin Schmierer with Chatterbox volunteers at the special 40th anniversary recording. Photo: Bethany Wales

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A talking newspaper is celebrating 40 years of producing audio recordings for visually impaired listeners in Norwich.

Chatterbox volunteer Tim Edwards with one of the reuseable envelopes used to send weekly editions of the talking newspaper. Photo: Bethany WalesChatterbox volunteer Tim Edwards with one of the reuseable envelopes used to send weekly editions of the talking newspaper. Photo: Bethany Wales

Chatterbox released its first edition in January 1979, in the midst of snow blizzards, strikes and a home football team reeling from a Carrow Road defeat against Queens Park Rangers.

The first recordings were saved on cassette tapes and distributed to blind and visually impaired listeners across the city.

Forty years later the team of volunteers are still producing weekly talking newspapers, using cuttings from this newspaper, as well as two monthly magazines, EDP Norfolk and Let’s Talk, for more than 500 listeners.

To mark it’s 40th birthday, Chatterbox have produced a special two part edition of the weekly newspaper, with special guest reader Martin Schmierer, the Lord Mayor of Norwich and a history of the charity’s four decades.

Volunteers recording a section of the 40th anniversary special edition. Photo: Bethany WalesVolunteers recording a section of the 40th anniversary special edition. Photo: Bethany Wales

The organisation is entirely staffed by volunteers, including Frances Pearce from Norwich, who has been volunteering for Chatterbox for 39 years.

The volunteer veteran said: “I’ve met so many of our listeners and they’re just amazing people. It’s social as well as doing something good.”

Although Ms Pearce said there had been many high points throughout the years, her standout was winning “Team of the Year 2018” at last year’s EDP Norfolk and Waveney Stars awards.

Tim Edwards has been volunteering for the charity for 15 years, taking on a variety of roles including chairman and sound recorder.

Inside the sound booth at the 40th anniversary Chatterbox edition. Photo: Bethany WalesInside the sound booth at the 40th anniversary Chatterbox edition. Photo: Bethany Wales

Recordings are now saved to memory sticks, distributed to listeners in reusable envelopes which are returned weekly to the charity for updates.

Mr Edwards said: “The operation wouldn’t work without Royal Mail delivering and returning the sticks for free. They save us about £40,000 in postage every year.”

Despite technological advancements, chairman David Potten said the ethos behind Chatterbox had remained the same.

He added: “People tell us its like a group of friends dropping in every Saturday to tell them the news. We’ve only missed two recordings in the past 40 years and plan to be running for another 40.”

A handwritten note from a listener, thanking volunteers for their work. Photo: Bethany WalesA handwritten note from a listener, thanking volunteers for their work. Photo: Bethany Wales

To find out more visit www.cbtn.org.uk

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