Charity members reading the weekly news articles in
the Rockvale Rebound recording studio.
WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT
The terms ‘Talking Newspaper’ and ‘Talking Magazine’ are, strictly speaking, misnomers. After all has anybody actually heard either of these publications utter even one word? However, it is not to difficult how such a designation came about, since thousand and thousand of visually impaired people all over the U.K. really do hear the articles published being spoken. Many hundreds of folk in Strathleven have also enjoyed a similar service over more than quarter of a century, but just how does it come about.
Let us start at the beginning, since, as the song says, that’s a very good place to start. At the Rockvale Rebound we have six rotating teams involved with the reading side of things. These teams have, first of all to prepare the material which is going to be read onto tape on their week of duty. This would usually take place on a Tuesday evening when two copies of the lical paper have bee acquired. Why two copies? Well, each of the articles are physically cut out and when an article from page one, for example, is removed, then it is more than likely that at least two, if not more articles on page two have been destroyed. So, one team member would cut the items from pages 1, 3, 5, and so one while their colleague does the same with pages 2, 4, 6 etc. These articles are then edited and timed, approximately and set aside in folders denoting the categories into which they belong. Given that the newspaper has already been edited in its print form, what do we mean by our version of editing? Bearing in mind that we are working to time limit and cannot simply add an extra page or two when it is required, and are trying to get as big a variety of items onto the tape, it is very often necessary to scrutinise the articl being worked on and remove what it is in that item that would be called, in the trade, ‘’Fluff’, thus leaving the “meat and bones” of the story. As can be imagined, this is quite a time consuming operation, and is only a part of the teams overall work, so they can take a break over the next day.
However, the operation takes on a different slant that next day, for that is when another team swings into action. This is the preparation team, of which there are two, alternating week by week. Once all the tapes have been returned to us courtesy of the Royal Mail, the process of sorting through them comes into play. Address cards are checked to ensure that as many listening members as possible will receive a tape. This is matched up with the amount of postal wallets available, and, of course, audio tapes. We always make sure that we have plenty of all items in stock. The postal wallets, with address cards in situ ready for the despatch stage, and every tape is put through a mains operated tape cleaning device and packed into appropriate boxes specially for the purpose.
Next evening the reading team and a recording operator swing into action again, and the prepared material is recorded on to a master tape. During this recording session, it can sound to the reders as if everything is somewhat disjointed, since there are moments when little jingles, unheard by them, are placed at the start and end of chosen categories, but the finished article is very smooth indeed. Ah, but we are not yet finished!
Now that we have a completed master tape, what do we do with it? Every Friday morning our despatch team comes into action. We have two of these as well and they, too, alternate. One member of the team has responsibility for the copying and checking the tapes. ‘We have a bank of three fast duplicating machines which allows for eleven tapes to be copied at one time from the master. Each of the tapes from each copying run is checked briefly. That is to say that around twenty seconds at the start and end of every tape is listened to to make sure that the copying has been successful. From a time point of view, it is totally impractical to check more than that, but it really does suffice. These checked tapes are them taken to the despatch table where they are placed into the wallets, recounted and placed in a postal sack. They are then taken to the local Royal Mail sorting office prior to going through the system and then delivered, usually on the Saturday morning. This allows our listening members the opportunity to hear the news contained in that week’s printed newspapers at the appropriate time.
Undoubtedly a wonderful service and something of a life line for so many visually impaired people since it keeps them up to date with what is happening within their own community. It also allows them to participate in conversations with their neighbours, so that they can feel much less of a social outcast, which must be welcomed.
The bulk tape copying machine.
The Rockvale Rebound is a Tape service specifically for visually impaired people resident within the Strathleven Area. It was initiated as a concept of an idea by Bobby Simpson, himself totally blind.
Bobby set about finding out what would be required to set up such a facility in August of 1980 and in the process of doing so, was able to enlist the help of local journalists and staff of the community education centre.
The main difficulties were finding out the most suitable type of machinery, such as recorders, microphones, tapes and even premises which would be required. It was also evident that getting to know where the people who would benefit from such a service was not going to be easy.
Towards the end of the year, a small band of willing volunteers had been formed and by April of 1981 the group were confident enough to arrange an inaugural meeting. This was attended by some 40 people, all of whom signed up to help the project along.
After extremely diligent work the first edition was produced on the 28th of May and sent out to 43 people in the district. This was the first of several digests of the local news and it was soon apparent that changes would have to be made. Within one year the frequency of the service had been increased to a fortnightly one, which doubled the amount of news available to the members.
In 1985, a magazine style tape was introduced which allowed for even more news on the news tape editions and also allowed for a wider spectrum of information to be made available. Some years later, in 1991, the service moved on to a weekly one and within a couple of months even that was altered to ensure that the news was then current rather than one week retrospective. The next alteration was the introduction of a second magazine style tape which increased even more the types of information and so the loop was completed.
The organisation is funded by grant aid systems as well as specially arranged local fund raising events. Some of the funding is set aside to provide for three functions which are held each year in order to cement the links between operating and listening members. The number of those members has now decreased somewhat from around 160 to about 80 per cent of that. There are two main reasons for this, one being the amazing advances being made in medical science with fewer people suffering sight loss on a yearly basis, and the other being the closure of no less than three major residential homes which were able to utilise the tapes in a therapeutical manner. Rockvale Rebound still retains a great degree of popularity.
The Rockvale Rebound is a fully constituted organisation and is registered as a charitable organisation with OSCR, which is the Office of Scottish Charity Regulators and which took over from Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue a few years ago. Our Charity number is SCO 16017.
The organisation flourished and operates from premises which have been refurbished to suit all the needs of a present day talking newspaper.
It is somewhat unique in that, as well as making use of the free postal service, the organisation appreciates the services of a team of volunteers who physically deliver tapes to those members who wish to avail themselves of such a service, thereby, maintaining a social contact, a facility which no other talking newspaper offers.
In 2005 the organisation hauled itself into the twenty first century by setting up its own website with the help of its Secretary’s son, who is an expert in this field. It was modified two years later and managed by Mr. Philip Black who is also extremely adept at this kind of work. When it was time for Phillip to move on, a vacancy for website manager became available and the site is now in the capable hands of Claire Muir who updates the site on a regular basis.
In 2004, Bobby was awarded the M.B.E. for his services to Talking Newspapers, not only in Strathleven, but throughout Scotland, a fact of which everyone involved in the organisation is immensely proud.
The Annual general Meeting of 2011 was a very special one in the annals of the Rockvale Rebound’s history since it officially marked the thirtieth anniversary of the organisation. We were delighted to have in attendance at the meeting, Janelle Scotland, who is the Chairperson of the Association of Scottish Talking Newspapers, the forerunner of which was the Scottish Talking Newspaper Group which was initiated in 1985 by our own Chairman, Bobby Simpson. Janelle gave a most enthusiastic congratulatory speech and presented the Chairman with a specially designed certificate and took a photograph of the committee and attending members. A copy of the photograph was sent to us and both the certificate and photograph were then appropriately framed and they now have pride of place in our premises at 22 West Bridgend in Dumbarton.
Whilst the talking newspaper service is in itself a worthwhile service feel that there is more that we can do in order to make people’s lives less traumatic. On the information slant we also provide two magazine tapes. Yes! Not just one but two! The first one which is called ‘[On The Rebound’ came into being in October 1985. We had found that trying to include other information in a sixty minute tape was not just difficult, but really impossible without seriously affecting the local news. To that end a team was set up to examine the possibility of reproducing articles which were contained in available printed magazines, covering a wider selection of informative items. This did not prove to be a simple task at that time because publishers were not altogether rushing to help us. However, there were some magazines which had specific articles which could be used for that purpose. Nowadays, the situation is very much a different kettle of fish, and by far, most magazine publishers welcome the notion that their magazines can actually be enjoyed by blind and partially sighted folk. The production of a taped magazine follows similar lines to a talking newspaper in that each team meber has the responsibility for researching specific categorical items such as health features, recipes and so on. These are recorded in exactly the same way as the T. M. And are produced on a monthly basis, being copied while the tapes, wallets and address cards are being sorted out.
Our other magazine came into being in 1993 and enjoys the name of ‘Rebound Roundabout’. It is produced by our chairman, Bobby Simpson M.B.E. and was originally conceived for two reasons. One was to complete the circle since the newstapes were very local, and the ‘On The Rebound’ magazine branched well outside that area, it was felt that a more localised magazine should be initiated to draw in the loop again. As well as that, Bobby felt that there was an opportunity for visually impaired people within the organisation to play a fuller part in the practical side of it. He chose three other visually impaired folk and the venture began. Sadly, though, the three people didn’t exactly feel comfortable with microphones pointing at other folk, but the project had started, and he was reluctant to give it up at such an early stage, and hoped some other visually people might come forward. It was not to be, though, so he had to carry it on by himself. He has been doing so for seventeen years now!! The features contained within “Rebound Roundabout” are about as wide and varied as they can possibly be and a huge spectrum of subjects have and are still covered. Such as natur visits to places like Levengrove Park and Balloch Country Park, the annual Festival Fun Day, intervies with well known local people as well as radio and television personalities and people from all walks of life who have found themselves in most unusual and sometimes precarious situations,
These magazines are produced monthly and they leapfrog each other so that there is a taped magazine on offer every fortnight.
There are other things which the Rockvale Rebound has undertaken to try to make people’s lives a bit more bearable. We have a Summer outing each year and we try to keep the destinations as varied as possible, usually choosing to go somewhere on the coast one year and somewhere inland the nextyear. The reason for us branching into that sphere is that we are very conscious of the fact that some of our members do not have the confidence to benture out of doors on their own, and since we make sure that they can take an escort with them on these outings they, at least get one enjoyable trip each year. What has a bus outing to do with talking newspapers? Essentially it may appear that they are completely disconnected, but our members then have an opportunity to meet up with other people with the same problems as themselves and can share experiences as well as discuss the benefits they get from our tape service.
The same can be said of our annual Christmas lunch, and once again, many of our members do not have the chance to enjoy and join in at a social occasion at that very special time of year. It also gives some of our folk the opportunity to display some of their own talents by way of singing, reciting poetry or playing a musical instrument, and over the years, that has come to the fore so many times.
We even turn our ’Annual General Meeting’ into a social occasion in that there is always a buffet lunch provided to enjoy after the organisations business has been attended to
We also do something else which is quite unique in Scotland, if not the whole of the U.K. and that is that we have a four weekly ‘hand delivery service where a small army of volunteers, properly vetted, pick up a maximum of sic tapes and physically deliver to some of our members. In doing this, we can ensure that those people who live on their own have a visit from someone known to them at least once month. So, all in all we feel that we are providing a service which is second to none in the whole country.