Official logo of BDAN
Bedford Talking Newspaper
for the Blind (BDAN)
Registered UK charity no. 802814

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Meet a selection of volunteers

Revised: September 2012

An image showing a group of people outside Biddenham village hall, after the charity's annual lunch and raffle in 2007

Volunteers and friends of BDAN, pictured after a successful fundraising lunch at Biddenham in 2007

Around 60 people give their spare time to run Bedford and District Audio News. From committee members to preparers, readers to recordists. The aim is to make sure that the charity operates smoothly, that each weekly and quarterly tapes and USB sticks are produced to a high standard, and that they are sent promptly to as many people as possible who qualify.

2011 photo showing a BDAN volunteer reading a newspaper page to tape via a microphone Volunteering with BDAN

Volunteer backgrounds vary: young and older, unemployed, in full-time work or retired. Those born and bred in and around Bedfordshire, others who have moved to the area for family, business or other reasons. Many live in Bedford, others further afield - even in neighbouring counties. Some assist on an occasional basis, others every few weeks or each week. New helpers are always welcome, in order to replace those who retire, move away from Bedford, or whose commitments change and are therefore unable to continue. Further details for prospective members are given on the Get Involved page.

Volunteers Sue Barrow and David Mitchell eating cake at the 2011 AGM
Above: Volunteers, Sue Barrow and David Mitchell enjoy homemade cake
after the Annual General Meeting, May 2011

Roles and duties vary. For example, technical - operating the mixing desk and computer recording program, copying USB sticks or tapes, administrative - keeping the listener and volunteer databases up-to-date, and producing the rota. Then there is reading - the weekly news and quarterly features, and of course, collecting and sorting returned tapes, fundraising, and promoting the charity.
Above: The annual fundraising lunch - an opportunity for volunteers to socialise and also meet listeners

This page also features free WAV and WMA format audio clips. If you have a problem accessing any of the files using a computer, try clicking the other mouse / touch pad button and using Save Target As instead and, once downloaded, clicking on Open.

The material remains the copyright of Bedford and District Audio News, and is for private, personal use only. Newspaper text is by kind permission of Bedfordshire Times and Citizen (Johnson Press) and Bedfordshire on Sunday (LSN Media)

Introducing ... A selection of BDAN helpers ...

Bethan Michael

Beth began volunteering with BDAN in 2010. She moved to work at the University of Bedfordshire in 2009 and wanted to meet new people and get involved in the local community. On joining BDAN she was a reader and felt fully welcomed by her team leader, team and technicians. She then decided to try her hand at recording and is now a regular technician and only occasional reader. Beth is a Lecturer in the Education Studies department at the University of Bedfordshire and is working on a PHD at the University of Chester, examining representations of death and mourning in late postmodern culture. She says she “thoroughly enjoys volunteering at BDAN and is glad to be involved with such a friendly, dedicated an positive group of people”.

Lesley Pitter

I have had a varied career – initially working with airlines and aviation handling agencies, even flying as a stewardess for a few years with a charter airline out of Gatwick. '
Our family moved to Bedford in 1988 and I began working for a Bedford Housing Association as PA to the Development Director. One of the caretakers from a sheltered unit made the company aware that the local “talking newspaper“ was keen to recruit a new team of readers. Now the only reading experience I had at that time was reading to my children at bedtime, but I thought I would give it a go. And here I am still with BDAN all those years later, now as a team leader and committee member. '
I’ve retired from full-time working, but BDAN certainly keeps me busy – not just the reading, but keeping the rotas for preparation, reading and checking/packing teams up to date together with details of spare readers should they be required. '
But it’s not just me who’s involved with BDAN. My husband, Mark, assists with the checking, packing and despatch duties following the week’s recording and my daughter, Stacey, is one of the readers on my team (although she’s currently on leave having recently had her first baby – Charlie – who is quite a handful at the moment). '
So, all in all, BDAN has become a family concern for me and mine! '

Joyce Buck

Joyce helps sort through the returned weekly news cassette / USB stick wallets (from last week) and keeps the listener database up-to-date. 'It is important to note if a person doesn't return his or her tape,' explains Joyce, a volunteer since 1994. 'After several weeks we will investigate'. As well as making replacement address labels for such cases, Joyce also adds new listeners, noting the all important birthdays on the calendar - to be read on the appropriate week. Joyce also has to deal with messages, for example, if a listener moves house or no longer requires the tapes. 'Sometimes a listener will be away or in hospital,' she says.
Born in London in 1923, Joyce first came to Bedfordshire as an older evacuee in WWII. However, she had to return to London in order to find regular work. Billeted in the WAAF, she returned to Luton, and met her husband through one his friends. She spent much of her working career at a solicitors and a travel agency. She originally heard about Talking Newspapers through her uncle who gave talks on Mozart to the blind in the Southwick / Brighton area. Joyce moved to Bedford in 1987. In her retirement, Joyce has also been involved with the local Red Cross and helps at Age Concern. Other past and present activities have included country dancing, keep fit and internet classes.

In Conversation...

Janet Cook

Janet is a founding member of BDAN. Treasurer since the charity's inception in 1978, she is also a sorter / preparer. Janet is currently in charge of adding new listeners. In an interview from 2006, Janet talks about the charity...

Picture of Janet Cook, September 2006 How and when did you become involved with BDAN?
'My aunt had a friend with failing eyesight and she asked me to accompany her to a meeting about forming a group to assist blind people. I came away having been elected Treasurer!'

What are the Treasurer's duties?
'To account for, and explain all of the income and expenditure of BDAN. As a charity we work within strict guidelines, and our financial affairs have to be monitored and scrutinised very carefully. The public must have confidence that our money is spent appropriately'

What sort of person volunteers for work with BDAN?
'Someone who is caring and understanding and wants to contribute to society in general - possibly even a relative or friend of someone already volunteering or taking our tapes'

How do you think the service will change in the future?
'Keeping in mind what our listeners' actually want is important. Hopefully we can always change to fulfil their needs. After all, they are the reason we produce the material. We regularly get correspondence from listeners. The feedback I have had is that they look forward to receiving their tapes [now memory sticks as well]'

Janet Cook poses with a cheque for £1,000

Photo of Janet Cook in the BDAN studio, September 2012

Above: Treasurer, Janet Cook, proudly holds a generous donation from Bedford Lions Club, September 2012

Right: Updating the master sheet of listeners, Janet marks who has, and has not, returned their tapes and USB memory sticks

Preparing and sorting are two of the many tasks involved in getting ready for each week's news programme

From The Archives...

A selection of former helpers...

Picture of a volunteer operating a cassette duplicating machine Former volunteer, Judy Knudsen, pictured duplicating the weekly news cassette tapes on Friday 30th August 1991 - photographed by the Beds Times (now Bedfordshire Times and Citizen)

Image by kind permission of Times and Citizen - photographer: Pete Felstead

Dennis Craddock

The late Dennis Craddock read as part of a weekly team between 1996 - 2009, although he assisted on occasions before this. He was also a familiar voice on the Magazine, reading many articles until 2011. From 1999 - 2010 he was also Publicity Officer for the charity.
A long-held interest in broadcasting started at school in the 1940s. It was during this time that he became accustomed to the sight of BBC broadcasting equipment in Bedford with the corporation relocating some of its wartime operations to the town. In 1975, Dennis helped to establish Hospital Radio Bedford (HRB) and, the next year, he was one of the main outside broadcast presenters for Her Majesty The Queen's visit to the town. He interviewed local and national figures alike, including Sir Cliff Richard, and the late MP Sir Trevor Skeet. Dennis' professional life was spent with a company which managed an extensive portfolio of residential properties.
Among his other leisure pursuits, he had a keen interest in genealogy, travel, and amateur dramatics.

Sadly, Dennis died in May 2012.

Audio Clip
Click on this link to hear Dennis reading about one of Bedford's historic objects in a clip from December 2004

Eira Grewer
Picture of Eira Grewer in 2004
Eira and her husband, Robin, moved to Bedford from Cheshire in 1981, and Eira became involved with BDAN as a reader in 1990. Over the next 19 years, Eira read on both the weekly news and quarterly magazine cassettes. She joined the committee as Secretary in 1992, and five years later was elected Chairman when the late Roy Purser retired. Eira served in the post until 2004, when she herself retired to spend more time visiting her daughter in New Zealand.
For about 30 years, she was a teacher, first in Nigeria at a girls' school and a teacher training establishment, and later in colleges of further education in Britain. The job she most enjoyed she found in her last 10 years of teaching, when she joined Bedford Study Centre and taught English to adult students from all over the world.

Audio Clip
Click here to listen to Eira read a spoof letter about a controversial proposed cull of wild geese, from a weekly tape in May 2004

A 2008 interview with Elsie Slack
Editor of the Magazine tape between 1993 - 2008

How and when did you first become involved with Bedford's Talking Newspaper service?
'When I was at work, about 1987. I was looking around for something extra to do. I started as a reader on the weekly news tape. I have a number of blind friends who take the tapes, and also a connection with the Bedford Blind Bowling Club too'

How did you get involved with the Magazine?
'I had been reading for the Magazine for some years and, when Joan Stuart retired as Editor in late 1992, they approached me to take the reins'

Photo of Elsie Slack at the 2006 BDAN fundraising lunch
Elsie Slack, pictured at the charity's annual fundraising lunch in 2006

Did the Magazine change over the years? If so, how?
'I suppose it has changed quite a bit. I knew some people at the Bedford Retirement Education Centre (REC), and they began to write features for us, so that made it a bit more original. They work well as a team, there's a good "team spirit", whereas it was perhaps more based on individuals when I started'

How long did it take to prepare a typical Magazine tape?
'It varied, depending on how much material had been sent in. It took a day to write-up the schedule and timings. Then I liaised with our technician, Neil Curran, and taped my introduction and links. That usually took about an hour and a half. Neil then records the readers individually over a period of about two weeks. He then edits the material, taking out any fluffs / mistakes, before transferring it from minidisc to cassette. The master tape is copied at high speed in our studio'

How did you decide what to include?
'When looking for material, I tried to choose a mix of long and shorter articles. I imagined that I was browsing a magazine, so tried to provide a broad spread of enjoyable features. We also kept it quite down-to-earth'

Do you have any particular favourites of all the articles you used?
'I enjoyed the articles BDAN or REC people write themselves, and I liked the poetry - that's my real love. We had some amusing articles, including from local church magazines, where they sometimes knock themselves in good humour. I also liked the live music we occasionally had - the late John Stanley would sing and play music - good songs, nice ones'

Elsie retired as Editor at the end of 2008.

And Finally...

Interested in supporting the charity?
See Get Involved, accessible via the Index page

Are you a former member of BDAN? If so, why not get back in touch - see the Get Involved page for a special message for you!

More information on the charity's past achievements is shown on the History page

Looking to interview someone from BDAN, or book a speaker for your event? See Get Involved

Do you have feedback or suggestions about this website - please get in touch - see Get Involved

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