TNF CONFERENCE DORKING 21st JUNE 2014       (Charles Waring)
Well what an interesting day! Eight of us squeezed into various cars and made our way to the Sports and Social Club of Friends Life in Dorking where the conference was being held. There, over a cup of coffee, we mingled with delegates from about 24 other TN’s. We met Jessica Thurtell and her volunteers from Dorking TN who organised the event. There were also four exhibitors there, which gave us the opportunity to check out what’s new in the TN marketplace. It was huge turnout for a small regional conference and I noted that we, the VOP, had the largest contingent of volunteers attending which made me very pleased and proud, so a big thank you to those that gave up their Saturday to come along.
When we settled down, the first speaker we were introduced to was Bob Hughes from Sight for Surrey. He was an ex MEP so was used to public speaking and with his humour, we were all soon in a very relaxed mood! He talked very eloquently about the work that SFS do, which basically is a very hands on approach to everything to do with blind people in their community. They visit and then have follow up visits by their Rehabilitation Officers where they are able to tell the visually impaired (VI) about the TN in their area. In the Surrey area this has increased their listenership enormously.
We then had a brief overview from each of the exhibitors about what’s new for TN’s. Zipped wallets against Velcro was one of the products that other TN’s had highlighted, Vi’s find the zips easier to open apparently. Calilbre Audio Library told us about the many books that the VI can access for a very small joining fee (£35). They have over 1800 titles to choose from, many are new books on the market. The British Wireless Foundation who’s “aim is to keep at the forefront of audio technology, responding to changing needs and technologies, investing in research and development to ensure their audio sets are equipping people for the needs of the future”. The future looks to be streaming TN content into peoples homes, so CD’s/USB’s will be a thing of the past. So, we will produce our recordings as normal and then upload the package to someone like the BWFB who will then stream the content.
We then got involved in a choice of two workshops, the first led by Jessica’s husband, David, who was looking at technical stuff! Peter and Lionel went along to that one, which turned out to be an exchange of information on techie issues. The remainder stayed in the hall and enjoyed a very interesting and informative talk on ‘Interviewing and Recording Skills’, led by Jessica assisted by Steve, who both worked at the BBC. The do’s and don’ts of interviewing techniques covered many aspects. For example, always check your recording after an interview before the interviewee has gone! It’s too late to discover after he/she has left that you had forgotten to put the SD card in the recorder and your efforts are blank! Most enjoyable and a lot was learnt or re learnt!
Following a very delicious ploughmans lunch, supplied by a local pub, the afternoon session kicked off with a talk from what appeared to be a very demoralized and potentially depressed reporter from the local Surrey Advertiser. He opened his talk with an image of about sixty people, in groups, representing different departments of the Advertiser as it was in the ‘80’s. The next image was of 3 people, which represents the staff on the paper today! Amazing and depressing perhaps explaining his demeanor! He had nothing good to say about the future of the local paper, in fact his conclusion was that there will not be local papers in the not too distant future. Mostly it will be online, which for us editors, I suppose, would be quite handy, as we would only need to cut and paste! He ended by saying that we, the TN’s, would in the future be writing the copy for our recordings! So any potential journos out there, this could be your chance to shine!
Next up was Rowland Myers from Infosound. Infosound produces content aimed entirely at the blind community. They interview people who would be of interest to Vis and offer information that would make their lives more comfortable, safe and conducive to their needs. He reminded us that all the packages that they produce can be accessed by any TN, downloaded and then inserted into their recordings. I have used this service in the past and find it not only very interesting but also very useful as a ‘filler’. The pieces are usually 4-7 minutes long and are full of useful and interesting information suitable for our listeners. 
Tony Vale is a committee member at the TN Federation and he told us about some of the work that the TNF is doing or not doing, like trying to sort out, on our behalf, the issue of copyright and the use of music in our recordings! Controversial, but I feel that they could do more by badgering the industry to allow TN’s to use music clips, that would really enhance our recordings. Ok, I’ll hop off my soap box now! But they are there to help us and one of things that would be quite useful would be sharing some of our magazine content around.
 Finally we had a question and answer session, which created some lively debate about various issues.

 Jessica wrapped it all up and we piled back into our cars and wended our way back home.
There was a lot of discussion in the car about the days event and it was agreed that it was a very enjoyable and interesting conference which raised many issues that perhaps hadn’t been appreciated before. It did occur to me, while I was listening to them talking about the day, on how it reflects the way we do things in the VOP. I thought perhaps we don’t communicate as well as we should? They all said they were very keen that, maybe, we could all get together and have a chat about what we are doing right and wrong and how we could improve things, right across the board. I agree, so I will be sending out a date soon, for perhaps the early autumn so that we can all get together, or as many as can make it and share our enthusiasm for our TN and the things we have heard on our day out to Dorking!
If anyone who went there or perhaps anyone who didn't who feels that they would like to respond or make a comment about this message please feel free to do so.


Hi Everyone

I hope you have all had a very good Christmas and are not suffering too badly from this awful weather we are experiencing.

I am writing just to say thank you to you all for your exceptional contribution to the continued success of our recordings for our blind and partially sighted listeners.

The year didn’t start off well and we came very close to having to amalgamate the Worthing and Littlehampton editions due to a difficulty we had in finding replacements for some recently retired volunteers. However, through some external advertising and a bit of word of mouth, we have been exceptionally lucky to find some new, enthusiastic editors and magazine contributors. Under the guidance and superb training from Janet Bunce, we now have some really excellent new volunteers. So a big welcome to them and because of this we are again able to offer our listeners a choice of news that they would like to listen to. Result!

One of our great achievements in 2013 was to ‘lift our game’ and produce some very high quality recordings. On the technical side, we have ‘cracked’ the extraneous noises that were plaguing us for many months at the beginning of the year. The quality, depth and balance of sound that we achieve now has a very professional feel to it. Using the microphones has really enhanced the quality and balance between readers which is really good. So well done to our technical ‘boys’ for achieving this and well done to our readers for adapting to using the mics in such a ‘professional’ way.

Generally the editing has been of a very high standard as the year progressed. Certainly the input of Mark’s critiques has helped us to formulate a much more robust plan for standardising the work of the editors and I am pleased to say, it shows. Mark has either mellowed or he truly believes the editing has greatly improved and is showing great balance and depth with the right material of the correct length. So well done to you editors! It is not easy, I know, to find suitable and interesting stories, especially the way local newspapers present their news, but I think you should all be very proud of what you have achieved.

It was noted by Peter Seamer that quite a few of our listeners had gone ’walk about’! There can be many reasons for this. They have either moved house, forgot to send the pouches back (they are given three goes at this!), don’t want to use our services anymore or sadly just passed away. So we decided we would make contact with them again to give them a chance to renew or not as the case maybe. Well, thanks to Vivienne Swift, who did all the mailing and collating, we managed to welcome back a substantial number of lapsed listeners who are now enjoying our recordings again. Result!

As I stated earlier, we had a problem with recruiting volunteers earlier in the year, but we are pleased that we are now up to numbers in all departments except the Copying Team. The Copying Team are very much the backroom boys and girls who do all the mailing, sorting and copying of our recordings onto the CD’s and tapes. One of the teams has been working one down for some months now, which they have coped with, but it does cause a problem if somebody is ill or away. So if you know of anyone who would like to join this select team please let us know. We are getting quite desperate now! While talking of the copying teams, can I take this opportunity to thank them for all the silent but important work they do! Result, and even more so if we can find another volunteer!

I would like to thank Mark on behalf of all of us, for his continued highly valued ‘ramblings”. I certainly listen to what he has to say and I think others also value his critiques. It’s a long arduous job that he has to do. Wading through both the CDs and online packages, listening and making notes, counting the edits, commenting on the sound, reader quality and editorial content and he does all this while at the same time operating his computer with the help of a screen reader. In the past I know that he felt that some of his input was falling on ‘deaf ears’, but I think, now, we can proudly say that we have listened to him and put some of his observations and thoughts into practice and this has made our recordings so much more rounded. Result!  Ramble on Mark!

It is always important to raise our profile so that those who would benefit from our recordings know that we exist. This year I have given some talks to various organisations to spread the word. We had a very successful event at Worthing Library in June where local author, Simon Brett, gave a very amusing talk about his work. We were also entertained by local poets and enjoyed music especially written for the event. In the audience we had 60 people from the blind and partially sighted community who enjoyed the morning along with many members of the public who were just passing through the library at the time. So, a good time was had by all and I think we picked up a few more listeners to boot! So, can I ask you too, to spread the word to anyone you know who would benefit or just mention us in conversation to friends and acquaintances as they may know of somebody. You never know it might help to increase our listenership!

Our Christmas party was a great success and thanks must go to Brenda Langelaan  for organising the evening. There were delicious nibbles and drinks and we raised a bit of money from the raffle. We don’t often get the chance to meet our colleagues but this is a good time to do so. It was well attended and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at next year’s ‘do’ which will be on 10th December at 7pm in Rustington Hall. Please put it in your diaries!

We have received some very generous bequests and donations this year, so financially we are secure for our continued operation. Result!

Can I just say a final thanks to Margaret Eagle, Peter(s) Seamer and Langelan and our treasurer, John Martell, as without their support and assistance the VoP would not be able to operate.

So, finally, can I take this opportunity to wish you and all your families a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

As Mark would say, “That’s it from me…..!”

Kind regards.