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Milestone as Kennet Cassette records 2,000th edition

Peter Dann founded the group on May 20, 1976, to record editions of a “talking” Newbury Weekly News for around 50 blind and partially sighted people in the Newbury area.
Thirty-eight years later it now has four editors and 57 volunteers, and is posted to 90 people every week, including to people as far away as Ayreshire and Cornwall who had previously lived in West Berkshire and wanted to keep in touch with local news.
It is recorded each week at the Newbury Weekly News offices, on Faraday Road, and copied at Soverign Housing building Gilbert Court, Thatcham.
Mr Dann said: “When we started the compact cassette was only 10-years-old and virtually none of our listeners had a cassette player.
“We ended up buying 75 when we started following a public appeal and with help from the NWN.
“We have about 90 listeners at the moment. Our maximum was 145 but with advances in cataract surgery, the treatment of glycaemia and other eye diseases the demand - not only for Kennet Cassette but virtually all talking newspapers - has been reducing.
“But it never ceases to amaze me what people get out of it.”
Several other talking newspapers across the country have moved to digital productions, however, Mr Dann said current listeners would prefer to continue using the tapes.
“The editing is one of the most difficult jobs, because if you read the Newbury Weekly News from cover to cover it’s going to take probably three hours,” he said. “We are limited to 90 minutes.”
The Newbury Round Table, of which Mr Dann was a member, spent £1,600 on initial equipment and funded the first year’s running costs. It now costs around £370 a year to run.
“It was phenomenally expensive when we started because we were subcontracting everything,” said Mr Dann. “Our last fundraiser was in 1995 and it was so successful that we still have money in the bank.
“We also get donations from listeners and an occasional bequest in lieu of flowers at somebody’s funeral.”
Newbury resident Alison Clarke has been a beneficiary of Kennet Cassette recordings since she lost her site in 1986, and her late husband John, who was also blind, was the fourth person to receive the very first recording of Kennet Cassette.
“It means a great deal,” said Mrs Clarke. “I like to know what’s going on around me.
“There are three things apart from the main news which are invaluable - the What’s On, the deaths and the lighting up times.
“I need to know when to draw the curtains and put the lights on. It’s the little things like that that other people wouldn’t even think of.”
A party to celebrate the success of Kennet Cassette was held immediately after the 2,000th recording, at Newbury Football Club, to which more than 60 people - including six listeners - attended.
The Newbury Weekly News proudly provided a celebratory cake and a bottle of bubbly for the event.
NWN chairman Jeremy Willis said: “Congratulations to the volunteers who edit and produce the talking version of the Newbury Weekly News.
“Every week they quietly produce your ‘truly local newspaper’ in a format for those who are unable to read the printed version and although an independent group, we see them as a very close partner and very much part of our role in the community.
“I wish them every continued success and full our support.”

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