Successful appeal for volunteers has saved Stevenage talking newspaper from closure

John May MBE is delighted volunteers have been found to stop the Stevenage Talking News from closing

John May MBE is delighted volunteers have been found to stop the Stevenage Talking News from closing. - Credit: Archant

A service which supports blind and visually impaired people and was facing being shut down due to a lack of volunteers has been saved.

The Stevenage Talking News was set up in 2013 by John May, who records himself reading stories from the Comet and then distributes the weekly recordings to about 80 people in the town who cannot see to read the newspaper.

John, 76, lives in Staffordshire and has set up 12 talking newspapers across the country - as well as assisting nine that were struggling - since first getting involved in 1982.

He was awarded an MBE for his community work in 2012.

But he has single-handedly run the Stevenage Talking News for the past five years and, due in part to a health scare last year, is no longer able to keep producing it.

With efforts to find volunteers to take it over consistently failing, the Stevenage Talking News faced being shut down.

But an appeal in the Comet has led to 15 people volunteering to keep running the service, which is free to listeners.

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Lily Baker, who lives in Shillington and is one of the volunteers, said: “My grandmother has gone blind in old age so I wanted to do something to give back to the community and this seemed like a really good way of doing that.

“We have plenty of volunteers and all the equipment, so hopefully we will have our first recording coming out on Friday.”

John said: “The core of volunteers is very good and I feel very confident this will be successful.

“A year ago I had a health scare and it made me realise that, without me, there wouldn’t be Stevenage Talking News anymore. You can’t do that to the listeners.

“Blind people get very isolated because most go blind later in life, so they stay where they feel safe - at home. They outlive their family and their friends and they feel lonely.

“The Talking News brings them about 20 hours of company a week, because as well as the Comet we have about 12 recorded magazines.

“I have given the new volunteers enough equipment to last 12 months and enough media players for 20 new listeners, which will give them time to fundraise for further equipment.”

He added: “It’s time for me to smell the roses and hand over to younger people.”