Editor, Mayor and other guests toast continued success of Ely talking newspaper as it celebrates its 40th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 14:54 22 September 2018

Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse

Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse

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Editor John Elworthy said community news and community values remained vital to the success of the Ely Standard as we move into a digital era.

Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse

“It is a delight to be here with you to recognise and pay tribute to those who have read out extracts from our paper for four decades and circulated them to Fenprobe members and supporters,” he said.

“You probably have more work to do these days since the print edition of our paper has grown magnificently in recent years, bucking the trend of many local papers.”

Mayor Cllr Mike Rouse also addressed guests and wished Fenprobe a successful future.

“Long may it continue sharing the news for those who are blind or have impaired sight and helping make Ely an inclusive community,” he said.

Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike RouseCelebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse

“Thanks to John Elworthy, Editor of the Ely Standard, who provides so much local news online and in the print edition, which is going from strength to strength.”

He added: “Well done to all the volunteers - Janet Smith the secretary who has served 31 years, Bill Pickess, chair for 15 years and resident Richard Hobbs, who was a volunteer at the beginning.”

Fenprobe uses a team of volunteers who get together to record the latest stories from the Ely Standard and any other local publications and these are made available to members.

It all began when Tony May, of Stretham, lost his eyesight in his early thirties; he was determined to find a way of making local news available to others with similar problems.

Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse

The first tape was sent out at Christmas 1978. Enthusiastic volunteers raised money to buy recording equipment and cassette players, and readers were recruited from Ely dramatic societies.

Early recordings were made in the living room of president, Richard Hobbs.

As the service grew, six groups recorded in six homes, which meant that six sets of recording equipment were needed. In 1999, Fenprobe TN moved into a bespoke studio rented from Cambridge Housing Society.

The quality of the recording and copying equipment was upgraded and weekly production continued for another ten years. However, it then became apparent that cassette recording was going to be difficult to sustain.

Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse Celebrations at Fenprobe, the talking newspaper, in Ely on their 40th anniversary. PHOTO: Mike Rouse

Tapes were becoming obsolete and servicing charges rose to a new high. After a lot of discussion and research, it was decided to make a radical change from cassette to digital recording and this was completed in the autumn of 2011.

Funded by The Big Lottery© and Grassroots©, the news is recorded via computer and the tapes are now USBs. This has meant a much better experience for listeners. The sound is clear and the news is unlimited because there are no capacity constraints.

Fenprobe provides each listener with a free digital player with just a USB slot in the top and simple controls. The listeners have written in to say how much they appreciate the change and nearly everyone found the changeover easy. Costs - such as rent, recording and copying equipment, USBs and players - are met by private and corporate donations and grants.

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