Downsound Talking Newspaper
Since November 1977, the Downpatrick Lions have been keeping people with visual problems informed about what is going on through the Downsound talking newspaper, which will soon celebrate its fortieth birthday. Some of the original members were John Riordan, Terry Torney, Deirdre Curran, Margaret Orr and Liam Conlon – who are still active forty years later! There are, of course, a number of other enthusiastic community-minded people on the backup team.
Distributed every two weeks, Downsound’s 1,000th edition was sent out in May this year, and since its launch, the Lions Club has distributed 35,000 tapes. The voices on the tapes belong to members of the Downpatrick Lions Club who set up the talking newspaper, and their job has been made a lot easier with new recording equipment given to them a few years ago by the Department of Social Development as it allows the volunteers to record more copies at a time. The success of the talking newspaper is due to the hard work and dedication of committed volunteers whose words provide the visually impaired with information about the comings and goings across the district.
Although the talking newspaper has had several homes since its launch, it is currently based at the Downshire Hospital where, after recording, tapes are made ready for distribution with the cost generously covered by the Post Office. People who receive the tapes can also return them by post to the Lions Club for free.
The Downsound’s tapes run for around an hour with stories from two local newspapers – the Down Recorder and Mourne Observer – providing people with news, sports reports, upcoming events and snippets of interest from a wide-ranging area around County Down. Local personalities have been interviewed over the years and asked to recall their memories of the area – they remembered the first silent movie at the cinema and the first bottles of milk being delivered to their doorstep. Even Olympic gold medallist Mary Peters arrived in the studio one day to say a few words.
All of Down District is covered and tapes are also sent to people who have moved away so they can keep up-to-date with what is happening locally. In between articles, music is played and readers will describe some of the photographs reproduced in the papers. The editors try to ensure that there is a wide range of stories to suit every age group – from current affairs to the ever-popular court reports! There is very positive feedback from the recipients of the tapes. They have said how much they look forward to the latest edition of Downsound dropping through their letterboxes, and Downpatrick Lions Club is delighted that Downsound has been such a huge success and that so many people get such enjoyment from it.
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