An appeal for volunteers is being sounded out to help the Barking and Dagenham Talking Newspaper as a lifeline for the blind and partially sighted to keep in touch with the news.

The charity that runs it has been recording stories from the Barking and Dagenham Post since 1976 — long before podcasts and website voice-reading technology.

Items printed in the newspaper each week are recorded every Friday onto USB sticks by one of the six teams of volunteers, then posted out free to the charity’s registered listeners.

The recordings are also online using the Talking Newspaper app at British Wireless for the Blind.

“We work with the local authority’s sensory team who provide most of the referrals to us,” the charity’s chair John Blake said. “Currently we have 12 volunteers, many having been doing it for decades.”

But his charity needs more helpers to keep the service up and running.

The first talking newspaper for the blind in the UK was set up at Aberystwyth in 1970 by Ronald Sturt, a lecturer at the College of Librarianship Wales. He saw one operating on a study visit to Sweden in 1968. 

The Barking and Dagenham Talking Newspaper was established to provide local news to the visually impaired, taking its news from the Dagenham Post as it was then called.

The charity was founded by Annemarie Bishop, a lecturer in the business studies department at what is now Barking and Dagenham College.

She was helped by Ronald and enlisted her lecturer colleagues and the Methodist chaplain at the college to help with readings.

Fundraising events were held and college staff also made regular monthly donations to keep the service going.

The first recordings were made in a makeshift studio in a language school at Crow Lane in Dagenham, with teams of readers from the college and the Methodist church.

Barking and Dagenham Council has since given the volunteers space in its premises including the White House in Green Lane, Althorne Way shops, St George’s Centre and the Galleon Centre in Boundary Road.

The current studio location is at Dagenham’s community heath hub in Frizlands Lane.

Anyone interested in helping out as readers, recording technicians or running the office can contact the charity on 07709 682133, or email