Blind newspaper service at risk over ‘astronomical’ city rent

Lothiansound Talking Newspaper''welcomed Miles Briggs MSP to their studio this week.
Lothiansound Talking Newspaper''welcomed Miles Briggs MSP to their studio this week.
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A TALKING newspaper service that gives the blind and partially sighted the chance to catch up with the latest news in the Lothians could be forced to cease operating due to “astronomical” rent in the Capital.

Lothiansound, which offers free audio recordings of articles from the Evening News, currently provides the news weekly to 400 listeners, with one avid recipient living as far away as the south of France.

Since April 2012, the service has been based at a Royal Blind building in Edinburgh. Now the charity is looking to sell the property, with volunteers hunting desperately to locate a new property.

But with soaring costs for office space in the Capital, the search has proved difficult, with the group’s tight budget meaning it may have to close.

Reader and committee member Prue McLaughlin said: “Our landlord has been very understanding and we completely understand their reasoning for selling the building.

“However we now need to find somewhere with good rent and in a good location, but the fees we’ve come across so far are astronomical.

“We acknowledge we may have to cease operating, hopefully temporarily, until we find somewhere new. It would be devastating for some of our listeners. We are trying everything we can to make sure it doesn’t come to that.”

A team of around 55 volunteers work hard to produce the talking newspaper including newsreaders, editors, sound engineers and administrators.

A selection of articles from Evening News editions throughout the week are compiled and recorded by a team of readers for the blind and partially sighted.

They can be read on any topic and pieces on Edinburgh’s past are often the most popular.

Recordings last around 80 minutes and are uploaded on to a memory stick or CD before being sent in the post to each of the recipient’s homes.

The service, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, is funded mostly through kind donations and currently pays a reduced rent.

But time is running out to source a suitable replacement to continue the vital service with volunteers appealing to anyone who may be able to help them out of their crisis.

Ms McLaughlin added: “What we do is very important for the listeners. They enjoy what we do and appreciate it.

“It is personal and something where the people begin to remember the voices from our teams. We also enjoy doing it and providing a service to them. Yes, people have radios but we record very local stories for Edinburgh and the Lothians. Most of our listeners are still based in the city, but we have some who have moved away and like to keep up to date with what’s happening.

“We feel there is someone out there who has the space for us and we’d urge them to get in touch.”

Potential listeners or anyone who can help with a new location for Lothiansound can email info@lothiansound.org.uk or call 0131 6612850.