Desperate appeal for volunteers to save Stevenage lifeline for the blind

John May MBE is desperate to find volunteers to stop the Stevenage Talking News from closing.

John May MBE is desperate to find volunteers to stop the Stevenage Talking News from closing. - Credit: Archant

A service which supports blind and visually impaired people will be forced to shut down if volunteers are not found to keep it going.

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 been involved with talking newspapers since 1982, setting up 14 across the country and sourcing volunteers to run them.

In 2012, he was awarded an MBE for his community work, and he still volunteers for three talking newspapers.

However, John said: “The Stevenage Talking News has been down to just me for the best part of five years and what I really need are local volunteers, but I have had no luck at all.

“Last year was difficult, partly because I had a heart condition, and also because fundraising has become harder. However, I persevered and now have enough funding to see through all of 2018.

“But I haven’t got the staying power I used to have and I can’t do it any longer. If the listeners weren’t so obviously reliant on the weekly Talking News it would be easy for me to simply walk away, but I can’t do that.”

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He added: “I have only reached about 80 people, but I would say there are about 2,500 people in Stevenage who can’t see to read a newspaper.

“The reason it goes unnoticed is because these people tend to stay at home and are isolated. It becomes very lonely for them, but a talking newspaper is a bridge back into the world.

“I’m sure, if I can attract a team of volunteers, word would spread, demand would grow, and some of the place name pronunciations would be more accurate!

“The number of people who could benefit from this service is bound to increase dramatically, due to sight loss from diabetes and obesity.

“I’m desperate to find people to take it on because I can’t keep it going any longer, and if we don’t get any volunteers it will end.

“I really don’t want to see the service fail when there are people relying on it.

“I would be able to provide all the equipment needed, both for the recordings and also the listeners.”

If you would like to volunteer, or for more information, email