EVERY Friday morning people with little or no eyesight look forward to receiving a special package that pops through their letter box.

Some who live on their own say it is like ‘an old friend coming in’.

Inside the envelope is a memory stick that contains news, sport, letters and information about the local community.

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Knutsford Talking Newspaper records extracts from the Knutsford Guardian for listeners who are blind, partially sighted or unable to hold a paper.

Knutsford Guardian: Chairman Margaret Hacking wants visually impaired people 'to know they are not forgotten'Chairman Margaret Hacking wants visually impaired people 'to know they are not forgotten' (Image: Newsquest)

Chairman Margaret Hacking said: “We try to be a bit of a lifeline, a connection to the local area.

“We want them to know they are not forgotten.”

Enthusiastic volunteers work in four weekly teams to produce an audio version of the paper.

Knutsford Guardian: Volunteer reader Bridget Knight said she likes 'helping people feel part of the local community'Volunteer reader Bridget Knight said she likes 'helping people feel part of the local community' (Image: Newsquest)

This week, I felt privileged to be a guest reader.

I was fascinated to discover the seamless production process that goes on behind the scenes.

As soon as the paper is published on Thursday morning, volunteers cut out stories and headlines and put each one into a clear plastic wallet.

The editor then sorts out a running order, shares the items with readers and liaises with a sound recordist.

Knutsford Guardian: From left, volunteers Bridget Knight, Margaret Hacking and Geoff HolmanFrom left, volunteers Bridget Knight, Margaret Hacking and Geoff Holman (Image: Newsquest)

Volunteers take it in turns to read the stories in a professional recording studio.

Meanwhile, in a back room, another team opens all the returned memory sticks from the previous week and wipes them clean ready for the new edition.

Once a new master recording has been produced, they copy this on a special machine, put the memory sticks back into envelopes and post them to listeners, to arrive the following morning.

Reading stories I had written myself was a wonderful new experience.

The paper featured six pages of reports I had written about the May Day festival, so I was able to describe all the pictures that captured the fun and enthusiasm of this annual pageant.

Margaret said: “We always try to bring the pictures to life.

“It’s like having a chat with a friend.

Knutsford Guardian: Margaret Hacking reading a story from the Knutsford GuardianMargaret Hacking reading a story from the Knutsford Guardian (Image: Newsquest)

“We try to use different voices so listeners can hear various intonations.”

The service is run on a shoestring and fuelled with enthusiasm.

Volunteer reader Bridget Knight said: “This is something I care about.

“I like helping people to feel they are part of the local community rather than being stuck at home not knowing what’s going on.

“I’ve made some amazing friends with other volunteers.”

Geoff Holmen, a retired actor, said: “I feel I’m doing something useful.

“People who receive it say it’s like an old friend coming in.

“I became aware of how important this is to our readers during the pandemic.

“We kept the service going using a married couple or one person to read.”

The charity won a Community Award from Knutsford Town Council last year after running the service for 45 years.

Founder member sound recordist Jim Blacklock has been volunteering since the start in 1979.

New listeners are always welcome.

The service is available to anyone who has any disability that may prevent them from reading a printed newspaper.

Free listening equipment and postage is offered to people unable to read normal typeface.

However, the recording can be accessed free by downloading the Talking Newspaper app, scroll to North West and then Knutsford or instruct Alexa to ‘enable Talking Newspaper’.

The team is also looking for more volunteers.

Margaret said: “A different team is needed every Thursday to carry out the many roles involved, copier, sound technician, editor, administrator, etc.

“If you are only interested in reading, it will take considerably longer for us to find an opening for you.

“Training is given for all roles.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer can email ktnews@mail.com.

To become a listener call Frances McGhee on 07814 564858.