East Devon Talking Newspaper volunteers and listeners meet with East Devon MP, Simon Jupp.

The Chair of the East Devon Talking Newspaper, Haydn Thomas, accepts a donation of £333.00 from Julie Marish of the Waitrose Community Matters Fund.

The talking newspaper association's vice-chairman, Graham Mallaband, and Waitrose community lead Julie Marish Picture: Sid Vale Talking Newspaper

Listeners to the local talking newspaper service are to benefit from a donation from Waitrose’s Community Matters fund.

The charity was one of the three local causes chosen by the Sidmouth branch of the supermarket in January to benefit from the fund.

Each month £1,000 is divided between three charities, with the proportions decided by customer votes.

On Tuesday, March 3, the vice-chairman of the Sid Vale & Eastern Devon Talking Newspaper Association, Graham Mallaband, received a cheque for £430 from Julie Marish, Waitrose's Community Lead.

Mr Mallaband said: "The Talking Newspaper is enormously grateful to Waitrose and to its customers for helping to raise such a generous sum, which will significantly contribute to the purchase of much-needed new playback devices for our listeners."

The talking newspaper is a weekly recording of local news stories and features from the newspapers in the area, including the Sidmouth and Ottery Herald and Midweek Herald, for visually impaired people.

Anyone who would like to know more about the service should contact the registrar, Wendy Eagles, on PO Box 12, Sidmouth EX10 9DD, or call 07552 766382.

Marilyn Thomas, right, with Wendy Eagles at the Salcombe Regis Fair 2019. Picture: Tony Charnock

Marilyn Thomas, who died of cancer in January this year, had donated her corneas for transplant.

She was secretary and co-ordinator of the East Devon Talking Newspaper, and also helped visually-impaired young people at the WESC Foundation in Exeter,  when her husband Haydn Thomas was deputy principal.

She has now been posthumously honoured with the Order of St John, which recognises tissue donors, and Mr Thomas has been told that her corneas have been transplanted into a 72-year-old man and an 83-year-old woman.

Mr Thomas said he hoped other people would be inspired to donate their corneas.

He said: “I received confirmation of the transplant with a sense of sadness and pride in equal measure.

“It is wonderful for me to know that a part of Marilyn is still alive in the world and helping someone else to see.”

Haydn and Marrilyn Thomas of Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspapers with listener Heidi James and her dog Spencer. Ref shs 39 18TI 2167. Picture: Terry Ife

Volunteers provide a weekly round-up of local news stories in audio format, for people with visual impairments

A talking newspaper service for people in the Sidmouth area with visual impairments has been described as a ‘lifeline’ by one of its listeners.

The Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspaper is a weekly recording of local news stories and features from the newspapers in the area, including the Sidmouth and Ottery Herald. It now has around 60 regular listeners.

Sidmouth resident Heidi James said: “It’s a lifeline really. Without it I would feel very isolated, because I wouldn’t know what was going on in the community and the surrounding area. I’m very grateful for it.”

But earlier this year, the talking newspaper service was in need of a lifeline itself after some of its long-standing volunteers stepped down after more than 20 years. Fortunately, during what could have been the organisation’s final meeting, a new management committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Haydn Thomas. His wife Marilyn came on board as secretary, and Wendy Eagles as registrar. Mr Thomas, a retired deputy principal of the Exeter-based WESC Foundation for learners with visual impairment, embarked on a drive to publicise the service and recruit volunteers.

“Over the last few months we have put a lot of effort into promoting it in doctors’ surgeries, health centres and opticians, and we’ve increased by 14 listeners,” he said. “We now have about 50 volunteers – readers, editors, producers and people who carry out the registering. There are seven teams and each team is doing a recording every week.”

He said the talking newspaper includes local news items and ongoing issues such as the beach management plan and the sale of the district council HQ at Knowle. “We always do a what’s on feature, and we select the events that are suitable for people with visual impairment.”

The service also produces a quarterly magazine. The new committee carried out a survey of listeners and found that, while some would have liked additional features such as sports coverage, the talking newspaper is very popular. “The feedback has been totally positive,” said Mr Thomas. “People look forward to it. People are happy with the items that we choose, and the talking magazine is particularly highly thought of.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the service should contact:

The Registrar

Wendy Eagles

PO Box 12 Sidmouth EX10 9DD

Tel: 07552 766382