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Chatterbox: The Norwich Talking Newspaper turns 40

PUBLISHED: 11:36 13 March 2018

Part of the team for EDP Norfolk Chatterbox edition: Richard Foxton, John Francis, Judy Hawkins, Caroline Oldrey, Julie Courtenay-Smith and Eddie Elmhurst

Part of the team for EDP Norfolk Chatterbox edition: Richard Foxton, John Francis, Judy Hawkins, Caroline Oldrey, Julie Courtenay-Smith and Eddie Elmhurst

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The talking newspaper Chatterbox – which also records EDP Norfolk magazine for blind and visually impaired listeners each month - is celebrating a special anniversary

You may well have walked or driven past it, especially if you’ve been to see Norwich City play at Carrow Road. Recently it has been given a bright new ‘shopfront’ with its name and logo above the door, but still, to the passerby there are not many clues to the fantastic work, dedication and brilliant service that happens here.

Petersen House, on King Street, Norwich, is the home – and recording studio – of Chatterbox, which provides a talking newspaper and magazine service for listeners who are blind or visually impaired. In March it celebrates its 40th anniversary and 2,000th edition of the recording which goes out to hundreds of listeners with a visual or associated disability around Norwich and beyond each week.

Chatterbox, The Norwich Talking Newspaper, was founded in 1978 by Meg Muggridge, Stan Petersen and Bob Walker, then editor of the Norwich Evening News. Tim Edwards, one of the sound recordists for Chatterbox, explains: “Stan Petersen had a friend who was visually impaired and he used to go round to read him the newspaper. Stan couldn’t make it one day, so he got hold of a cassette recorder and taped himself reading the newspaper so that he could drop it off for his friend to listen to.”

Stan’s idea gave rise to the Chatterbox recordings – the Norwich organisation was part of the growing movement that now includes about 500 groups in the UK with recordings taking place across Norfolk and Suffolk. As well as newspapers, the Chatterbox teams create audio versions of EDP Norfolk and sister publication Let’s Talk every month.

Originally the recordings were put on to tape cassettes but are now on memory sticks, dispatched every week at no charge to listeners and delivered free by Royal Mail.

Chatterbox is run by around 90 volunteers, divided into four teams who each work one week in four. On the Chatterbox EDP Norfolk team are co-ordinators Julie Courtenay-Smith and Sarah Lusher, editors Linda Jones, Andrea Mearing and Lesley Fish, readers Rupert Hipwell, Sarah Kings, Richard Foxton, John Francis, Judy Hawkins, Caroline Oldrey and sound engineer Eddie Elmhirst. Brenda Smith, Liz Allard, Lesley and Derek MacLeod are part of the administration team.

At its peak Chatterbox went to nearly 1,000 listeners; today about 400 recordings are sent out. Alternative ways of receiving news and developments in eye surgery mean the numbers have dropped; but, as Meg Muggridge used to say, she “would be glad to go out of business, to not be a required service”.

On March 1, its 2,000th edition will be recorded with special guest appearances from the High Sheriff of Norfolk and the Lord Mayor of Norwich.

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Listen in

Do you know someone who is visually impaired who would like to receive the monthly Chatterbox Let’s Talk recording? The recordings are sent out free of charge, thanks to the partnership with the Royal Mail and Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind. Write with the name, address and phone number to Chatterbox Let’s Talk Magazine, Petersen House, 240 King Street, Norwich, Norfolk NR1 2TT.

Hoppy birthdays

In its 40th anniversary year, Chatterbox is helping the charity Break celebrate its 50th birthday by sponsoring one of the GoGoHares specially decorated statues which will be hopping into place around Norwich in the next few months. The Chatterbox Hare is aimed at raising awareness of the work that the volunteers do for the visually impaired people of Norwich - and to welcome new listeners and volunteers.

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