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.
Nearly 30 of our listeners accepted SADTN’s invitation to visit ‘Music in Bloom’, the 2014 flower festival at St Albans Abbey, on 26th September. Brought there and back home again afterwards in a fleet of eleven taxis and private cars, each listener was escorted by a personal volunteer around the 139 displays that filled the Abbey, while music played throughout.
SADTN’s Committee came up with the idea because they thought the scent of so many flowers together with the musical accompaniment would help to bring this major flower festival alive for those with limited sight.
The escorting and key support team included around 40 TN volunteers, their friends, members of ‘Audio Description at the Abbey Theatre’, friends from St Albans Diocese Mothers Union, and sixth form students from St Albans School. The visit ended, after a personal tour lasting two or more hours, with tea and cakes in the marquee.
Photo: SADTN’s own flower display, designed and created by Fiona Ashley
Thirty pubs, clubs and other venues in Harpenden and surrounding villages contributed to the ‘huge’ cheque for £2,500 presented in June by Harpenden Lions Club (HLC) to St Albans & District Talking Newspaper.
The Skew Bridge on Southdown Road in Harpenden collected the largest single amount – £500. Hosting the presentation was a double celebration for landlords Bernie and Nick as they had just reopened after three weeks’ refurbishment.
“Every year, we provide local pubs – and other key locations – with a massive Easter Egg to raffle,” explained Andrew Godden, President of HLC. “We ask them to collect the most they can from their customers. The Skew Bridge did a fantastic job.”
“Thanks to the efforts of the Harpenden Lions Club, we will be launching a campaign in search of new listeners – using a new logo, posters, leaflets and our first website,” said Rob Pearman, Chairman of SADTN.
PHOTO: Back row: Andrew presents the cheque to Rob. Front row: Bernie Francesca and Nick Collins of The Skew Bridge.
Cllr Annie Brewster, Mayor of St Albans City and District, congratulated St Albans & District Talking Newspaper (SADTN) on 26 April for reaching its 40th anniversary. Cllr Brewster cut the anniversary cake at the charity’s Annual General meeting at St Mary’s Church, Marshalswick. Help was close at hand in the form of Mike Tetley, his guide dog Wendy, and around 30 other visually impaired listeners.
Cllr Brewster and Cllr Rosemary Farmer, Harpenden Town Mayor, chatted with many of the 90 listeners, volunteers and guests at the celebrations. Also present were representatives from neighbouring Talking Newspapers across the County. Presentations were made by representatives of the national Talking Newspaper Federation and the Harpenden Lions Club. The Club’s 2014 Easter Egg Raffle is funding a communications package for SADTN, which will help develop its first website, to be launched soon at www.sadtn.org.uk.
Cllr Annie Brewster, Mayor of St Albans City and District, said: “St Albans & District Talking Newspaper does a fantastic job helping members of our community who are visually impaired. Through their weekly audio programmes, the charity keeps listeners in touch with what’s happening across the District. Those of us who enjoy the benefit of sight often forget that visual impairment can leave you excluded from what’s going on around the community. I offer my congratulations for the first 40 years of this very important local charity. This is one of the oldest Talking Newspapers in the whole of the UK – long may it prosper!”
The charity provides a free news service to visually impaired people and is supported by volunteers that have included local celebrities, the late Eric Morecambe and Philip Madoc. From its studios on Hatfield Road, SADTN produces a weekly audio programme using news items from the Herts Advertiser and the St Albans & Harpenden Review. Articles from Hertfordshire Life and interviews with local ‘celebrities’ are also included in the programme.. Once completed, the programme is then loaded onto memory sticks which are sent each week by post to 100 local listeners. They listen to the programme on the special “boom boxes” provided free of charge by SADTN.
SADTN Chairman, Rob Pearman, commented: “Our fantastic volunteers, we have about 80 of them, work hard to get these programmes into the homes of our listeners. We raise the cash every year so we can provide this service at no cost to our listeners. Our commitment is to reach out to everyone in St Albans, Harpenden and all the villages within the District. Anyone who is visually impaired, or unable to read the local papers for any reason, can be a listener.”
St Albans Mayor, Cllr Annie Brewster, cuts SADTN’s 40th anniversary cake
[Photo by Brian Doble, L.R.P.S]