History of Dyrons Journal
The Talking Newspaper movement started in the early 1970’s soon after the familiar cassette tape and small cassette players became widely available to domestic users. We believe that the first Talking Newspaper in England was the Farnham and Alton Talking News (FATN). It was founded in 1972 by a visually impaired lady called Letitia Stokes but there is some debate about whether it was actually the first.
The talking newspaper concept spread rapidly across the UK and in February 1977 a TN was started in Newton Abbot. Because it was based at what used to be the Dyrons Youth Club – where the Leisure Centre is now – it has always been known as Dyrons Journal – though we now add the sub-title “The Teignbridge Talking Newspaper”.
The Journal, like many talking newspapers, had a difficult birth. A need was first identified by a Mrs Kay Broughton of Devon Social Services. She was aware that Ernie Matthews, a blind person from Newton Abbot, had lost touch with the local news since his wife had also become visually impaired. Kay started to call round from time to time to read the news to Ernie and then began to record it onto tape for him. At the same time Phil Oliver, who ran Dyrons Youth Centre, started to record an information tape for the members, which could be played between disco items. Some of the young people became interested in the process of producing these tapes and a small team was formed to produce them. The final link in the chain was Ken Jones, a community policeman, who used to drop in on the Matthews and was aware of their situation but who also had the Youth Club in his parish. He became the crucial link, joining the two strands together. A few experimental tapes were made for the Matthews and one other blind recipient. The inevitable committee was formed and a constitution was worked out. And so in 1977 Dyrons Journal was born. Recipients had to have their own cassette players and initially there were just 6 customers. The copying of the tapes was done on a so-called fast copier which was borrowed from a charity in Teignmouth. This had to be collected each Friday and returned over the weekend.
The team were told that they would need £3000 to launch a Talking Newspaper. The Journal actually started with £31 from the Royal and Ancient Order of the Buffaloes of Newton Abbot. Donations were subsequently made by Austins, M & S, the Co-op and P&H Carpets. Recipients also started to help out with sponsored walks and a membership subscription. A breakthrough came in 1978 when the students of Seale Hayne devoted the proceeds of their rag-week – some £1700 – to the Journal. This enabled the team to purchase two fast copiers, as well as other recording equipment.
The recording day was Friday, as it still is. From about 3pm the readers, most of whom were local 6th-formers, came in from school and recorded the master tape. Then the fast copiers came into their own. Each was able to copy 2 tapes every 4½ minutes! As by this time there were 80 customers, the copying process took about two hours. If everything went without a hitch the job was completed by about 8.30pm! Apparently it was not unknown for the team to be there at 10.30pm.
For most of its life the TN used two readers to record the Mid-Devon Advertiser in their homes on a Friday morning. At midday the tape and the recorder would be taken to the youth centre, known as The Junction, at the back of the Leisure Centre. At the same time someone would collect a sack of returned tapes from the local Royal Mail Delivery Office and take them to The Junction. Since this is the local hub for the Devon County Youth service we had only about an hour over lunch to note which tapes had been returned, produce new copies for the current week and prepare them for dispatch. The new sack of wallets would then be taken back to the Delivery Office.
Dyrons Journal finally moved to digital technology in May 2016, having spent the previous 12 months raising the necessary funds to purchase all the necessary equipment. During 2015 we raised nearly £6,000 – from local Councillors, from Rotary Clubs, from a Devon-based grant making Trust and from a superb local fund-raising event in Buckfastleigh. This alone raised £2,600! We bought a laptop, a sound mixer, bespoke software, microphones and enough digital players to supply those listeners who needed them. The transition was fairly painless, with even the oldest listeners converting easily to the new medium.
We record the news from the Newton Abbot edition of the Mid-Devon Advertiser and the Teignmouth Post and Gazette every Friday morning.
We are fortunate that the Advertiser allows us to use the Board Room at their base in The Old Manor House in Wolborough Street. Without this generous support our task would be much more difficult.
The service is run entirely by volunteers and is free to recipients. Our income is wholly from donations.