Monday 16th May saw the successful culmination of months of effort by three local organisations working together for the benefit of a group of local visually impaired residents – all of them regular listeners to the weekly audio programmes provided by St Albans and District Talking Newspaper (SADTN), which aims to keep local people in the District in touch with what’s going on in the community around them.
In recent months, SADTN has worked with a team of students at Oaklands College as part of the “Dragons Apprentice Challenge”, a local scheme that brings together businesses, school/college students and charities. A group of year 12 College students raised funds for SADTN to take some of its listeners to visit the Abbey Theatre and experience the Audio Description facilities available for visually impaired members of the audience. The students raised enough cash to ensure the attendees were able to enjoy refreshments provided by local caterer, Eat Lunch.
The Abbey Theatre’s Audio Description service introduces the storyline, plot, character, set and costumes. Then during the performance, through their individual headphones, these listeners are given additional information they might not be able to see on stage, such as significant but silent actions, gestures, movements, entrances and exits. Audio Description enables a visually impaired person to be immersed in the performance alongside the rest of the audience.
As one of the audience for this special ‘taster’ said afterwards: “That was amazing. Shakespeare’s language is good enough on its own but to have the added benefit of hearing what the performers were actually doing – which otherwise we would be excluded from – was great.”
SADTN organised the transport, refreshments and a short excerpt from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ was specially performed by some of the all-woman cast from the Company of Ten, ably assisted by the theatre’s audio describers. These AD performances are held on the second Thursday of each production run on the main stage. The next AD performance is on Thursday 18th May . Future productions include Dylan Thomas’ ‘Under Milk Wood’ (1st – 9th July, with Audio Described service on Thursday 7th July).
“It’s a fantastic facility for those with serious sight loss”, said SADTN Chairman, Rob Pearman. “If you can’t see enough to read a book, you can usually listen to the audiobook. Now, if you want to go to the theatre locally, you can enjoy the performance whether or not you can see everything that’s happening on stage. Many thanks to the team at Company of Ten for providing this fantastic service and for putting on this special performance just for us.”
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The fund-raising raffle at our Annual General Meeting may not sound an obvious choice for local businesses but the recent raffle at the Talking Newspaper’s 2016 AGM proved that there is, as the recent Mayor said, “great generosity from individuals and businesses across the District”.
“It can be quite daunting knocking on doors and asking for a donation or a voucher or gift”, said SADTN’s fund raiser, Jenny Schon. But Jenny and her raffle prize colleague, Jill Bond, clearly did not hold back in their efforts.
An impressive list of prizes and vouchers faced SADTN’s listeners, volunteers and guests as they waited anxiously, raffle tickets in hand, for the City & District Mayor, Cllr Saleh Gaygasuz, to make the draw, ably assisted by Deputy Mayor of Harpenden Town, Cllr Mrs Nicola Linacre.
At the head of the list in terms of ‘equivalent cash value’ was a generous voucher from Sopwell House Country Club & Spa, enabling the holder of the winning ticket to enjoy a “Simply Sopwell Day” for two people. Next up was a £70 voucher for a meal at Côte Restaurant in St Albans.
Vouchers were also provided by Cath Kidston, Hotter Shoes, Sainsbury’s, Ayletts, Waterstones and Wilko. A gift set from Neal’s Yard Remedies, champagne from Tesco, chocolates from Waitrose, various beauty products from Boots the Chemist and a photo frame from WH Smith wrapped up the donations from local businesses. On top of all that came several gifts and donations from private individuals.
As Jill commented after it was all over: “this year we raised what is, I believe, a record sum for the charity AGM raffle – just over £250. And every penny goes to help our wonderful listeners.”
At the end of 2013, SADTN sent its weekly audio programmes to 88 listeners. By the end of September 2014, that number had grown to 114 – with an average of four new listeners being added each month.