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20
Nov 2015
TALKING BOOKS ARE 80 YEARS OLD

‘Can you make me a Talking Book version of ‘Call the Pharmacist?’ That was the request from Mrs Helen Hay to Elizabeth Roddick at New Life Pharmacy after an operation to repair a macular hole in Helen’s eye had left her with limited vision.

Seemingly, Helen had to lie flat for several weeks with only 10 minutes break every hour to allow the back of her eye to heal. ‘That’s when I started to use talking books-they really were a godsend since I couldn’t read an ordinary book or even watch television.’

So that’s how the idea of a Talking Book version of ‘Call the Pharmacist’ came about.

Elizabeth does a fortnightly radio slot at RNIB’s Insight Radio so she arranged to meet with the team at the Transcription Centre at Gullane St Partick to find out how it’s done.

Robert Kirkwood is Broadcast Producer at Insight Radio and has produced a documentary about the history of Talking Books telling the story of the history of the service which has turned 80 years old this November.

"The earliest books were recorded on wax so the narrator had to record an entire side in one go, 22 minutes without a mistake. Many BBC newsreaders of the 1930's and 40's were recruited as they were the best people around at the time to achieve this."

"In 80 years, the service has gone from sending large boxes of brittle shellac discs to users to play on a wind up gramophone, to a fully digital service available on CD, USB stick or direct download to your smart device."

'Kris Wallace, Audio Producer for RNIB Content Services told me:

‘There are 600 new Talking Book titles produced a year, plus 300 'imports' from previously available commercial audiobooks. We have approximately 22,000 Talking Book's currently available in the RNIB library and they are not only enjoyed by the visually impaired but they are listened to in gyms, people travelling or just for pleasure while doing the housework by sighted people.

But there is also another side to the service. People who need official letters from lawyers, doctors or the Council plus official bills can get them recorded so that they can listen to them at home using the RNIB Transcription Service. We utilise 30 volunteers in Glasgow who help deliver this service, and each of them learn recording, editing and studio techniques.’

‘The next thing I had to do was find a narrator’ said Elizabeth. ‘It had to be someone who I thought would bring out the essence of the book, my passion for pharmacy helping the public. Lorraine McIntosh of Deacon Blue who is also an actress, had come into my pharmacy in past years and I had got to know her quite well. She agreed to to do the narration and we set the date at the studio.’

Kris was telling me that a 300 page book takes about 10 hours to record and of course there is then all the editing

'I was intrigued to sit beside Kris as he was listening to Lorraine narrating the book and if there was even the slightest deviation from the written word, the recording was stopped and restarted so that there would not be any differences from the original text.'

I was so taken with the whole process that I’ve made a short documentary-hopefully it might be picked up by one of the TV channels!’

GET YOUR COPY OF THE TALKING BOOK ATwww.newlifehealthcare.co.uk

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