STRABANE’S talking newspaper the Mourne Echo is making a renewed appeal for volunteer readers.
At the AGM, which took place at Floyd’s Restaurant recently chair Anne Gallagher thanked all the volunteers for their contribution over the year. However she noted that the organisation really needs more news readers and more people to produce the magazines.
At the moment the committee members, Anne Gallagher, Harry Gallagher, Janet Pollock and Stephen Birkett, are the only people producing magazines.
The weekly talking newspaper is distributed free of charge to people from the district who can’t read due to visual impairment. There are four teams of volunteers, each of which meets on one Thursday a month for an hour and a half in the recording studio in Greenfield Home. There they read pieces from the Strabane Chronicle and Strabane Weekly News onto a CD. The news normally lasts 40 minutes but the CD can hold 80 minutes of recordings so the teams try to fill the disc with a ‘magazine’ of general interest. Unlike the news section, the magazines do not have to be done on a certain date: they can be prepared weeks in advance.
Last spring secretary Stephen Birkett took a voice recorder to Australia, New Zealand and Borneo and recorded an audio diary which he made into several magazines over 2016. This year he was in Thailand, Burma and Cambodia and he again took the voice recorder and has begun to produce magazines about his trip this year.
“Last year saw a drop-off in recipients but recently several new recipients have come on board so 25 CDs are regularly being posted out to people with a visual disability,” a spokesperson for the Echo said. “The main problem the talking newspaper faced this year was that the CD copier began to misbehave. Unbeknownst to the volunteers, it was not writing all the discs so some recipients were getting blank discs. For the last few weeks Stephen has been copying the CD one at a time on his laptop so recipients have been getting their discs rather late.
“A replacement CD copier has cost the Mourne Echo £660, a substantial expenditure which wouldn’t have been possible without the generous donations the newspaper has received over the years, especially from Fox Lodge Cricket Club. The new copier arrived on the day of the AGM so recipients should get a more reliable service again.”
If anyone would like to get involved, either as a news reader or as a magazine producer, please contact the secretary, Stephen Birkett, on email@example.com or write to the Mourne Echo care of Derry and Strabane District Council, 47, Derry Road, Strabane, BT82 8DY.
Also if you know a registered visually impaired person whom you think would appreciate receiving the weekly CD please contact the organisation at the above address.