After more than 30 years Sound East are still the talk of the town
- Credit: Nick Butcher
'Sound East is in danger of dying of old age.'
That is the warning, stated only half in jest, from Rodney Scase, 76, who has been chairman of Sound East in Lowestoft, for 24 years.
Since 1979 the charity has been producing a free weekly news audio recording of The Lowestoft Journal, roughly 90 minutes long, to send to any registered blind or partially sighted members of the community.
'I joined the association in 1980 having seen a letter in The Journal,' remembers Mr Scase.
'The ideal situation is that we aren't needed at all. With advances in technology and the operations that available today there are more options for the visually impaired.
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'However in the immediate future that isn't the case and we want people to know that we are here if you need us.'
There are four news teams that are part of the service, on Alexandra Road, each of whom has an editor. Every Friday evening, they gather to read the pages of the Journal, ready to post out to about 130 people who regularly use the service. They cover the Waveney area but are still sending recordings to ex-pats around the country and abroad.
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Recordings were originally dispatched on cassettes but now come on USB sticks and listeners are provided their own machine to play them on.
All of the main news items are included along with the more interesting small articles and obituaries.
The charity needs more volunteers to ensure the crucial role they play in the community continues.
One beneficiary of the service is Chris Collis, 78, of Westwood Avenue, who has been using it since the first edition in April 1979.
Mr Collis said: 'I have been partially sighted all my life and through the years it got worse. I was registered blind in 1971 and for the last three years I haven't been able to see a thing.
'The service has given me independence. It lets us know what is going on in the town, from cinema listings to new shops opening. It allows me to keep up to date with everything that's going on.'
Over time Mr Collis has graduated from service user to a member of the committee ensuring the quality of the recordings.
He said: 'I wanted to give something back. I listen to the recordings and report back. I can hear background noise that maybe they miss. They listen to the advice and make improvements.'
Sound East also produces The Informer, which contains details of upcoming events, sport, weddings, village news and money-saving offers, as well as Sound East Extra which includes interviews, commentaries on events and other snippets to inform and entertain.
Carmen Stokes, 50, of Kirkley Run, has been registered blind since 2000 and using the service since she moved to Lowestoft in 2005. Like Mr Collis, she too now sits on the committee safeguarding the quality of the service.
She said: 'It's easy to listen to and helps give me the information from the news and know what's going on.
'People from other towns have said they wish they had the same support facilities that we have in Lowestoft.'
Mrs Stokes praised the social community that the service provides labelling Sound East a 'brilliant place to make great friends.'
She also highlighted the ongoing support Sound East provides for its members.
'Someone will come and help set up the USB player at home, they show you how to work the machine and provide a number to call if you ever need help,' she said.
Tim Horne, 65, vice chairman of Sound East, has been a part of the service since the start – working on the very first edition as a sound engineer.
He said: 'I think a lot of us take things for granted.
'When you hear people like Chris and Carmen talk about the service and its impact it makes it all worth while.'
To find out about volunteering opportunities visit www.soundeast.org or call 01502 581823.
Donna Page, has been volunteering as a reader for Sound East for a year.
She said: 'I wanted to do some volunteer work and read about the charity in the Lowestoft Journal.
'I think it's a good idea for those who need it, I remember my nan used to use it when I was younger.'
She added: 'I didn't know about the service before I joined but it's good fun and I enjoy doing it. Volunteering has been a good way to meet new people.'
Harry Sear, has been volunteering as a reader and editor for the past seven years.
He said: 'Our members look forward to our posting coming through the door.
'If you feel you want to help others this is only two hours out of an evening every few weeks.
'People need things from us, it doesn't take much time and we are doing something that people need.'