Annual Report 2020
Needless to say the year has been dominated by the Coronavirus. The production of the newspaper involved several groups of people gathering together, a situation which could not be continued. Accordingly the decision was made to cease recording, the last issue being on 19th March. Eventually when the position became clearer we felt it possible to resume recording with a small number, which we did on 4th June. This was entirely due to the efforts of Caroline Mole, our editor, who organised the personnel and the system to meet the restrictions imposed by the virus. The response of our volunteers has been such that most of our original output has continued.
A generous bequest last year meant that we were able to give consideration to our technology. Particular appreciation is due to Stuart Parkinson, whose knowledge and expertise enabled us to upgrade the microphones and recording equipment. This together with additional soundproofing has improved the quality of our output.
Our listener numbers stand at 88, a reduction over 2019. Now that the newspaper is available online we hope that increasing numbers will access it through the internet.
My thanks are due to our treasurer, Cath Mudford and to Mavis Nixon, our secretary. I also wish to express my gratitude to the staff of the Eye Society for their help and support during the year, particularly during lockdown.
We are reviewing the way we are organised, recognising that the current situation will continue for some time. However, we know that our weekly news is welcomed in the homes to which it is sent and we are committed to continue providing this service in the future.
This year has been one of two halves – pre-lockdown and post lockdown. It’s fair to say that the lockdown situation presented us with a number of challenges – how to comply with Covid-secure protocols, social distancing and hand sanitising while maintaining our output. A number of our volunteers were ‘shielding’ but those who were willing and able to get out were keen to return and have risen to the challenge. Our recording sessions are now a slick operation. We have reduced the number of readers in the studio at any one time and have staggered arrival times to limit the number of people in the building. Those volunteers who were unable to return in person have embraced technology to record their contributions, and we have been able to add them to the weekly recordings. I doubt whether listeners can hear the difference.
A lot of the technical side has been down to Stuart Parkinson, who was able to offer advice to those tackling remote technology for the first time. Staying with the digital theme, thanks are also due to John Chidgey, who used his time in lockdown profitably by upgrading our website. The new one looks much fresher and has a link to our online output, so visitors to the site can hear the current week’s recording. Online hits through the Talking Newspaper app have continued to grow - indeed, some of our local listeners have opted to listen online rather than receive memory sticks. We can also see from the statistics that our Talking Newspaper has listeners all over the country.
We are expecting the current situation to remain for some time and are looking at modifying our output in response. The Talking Newspaper wouldn’t exist without the input from its team of volunteers, who have risen magnificently to the challenges posed by the pandemic. I thank them all.
Finally, we should not forget that 2020 saw the sad loss of Peter Critchlow, one of our longest-serving volunteers and a firm favourite among our listeners. His cheerful demeanour and terrible jokes are very much missed.
Accounts for Year Ended 31 March 2020