Sound On – The First Ten Years

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As far as I can determine from reading through the minutes of the preliminary meetings which were held, a Talking Newspaper for Ipswich and District was the idea of Marilyn Brooks who was an assistant lending librarian at Ipswich Central Library. An initial meeting of invited guests was held on 10th June 1976 at Ipswich Town Hall, but, although a number of expressions of interest were received through the Evening Star coverage of that meeting, no further action occurred due to Marilyn’s subsequent prolonged absence from work through illness.

Having eventually returned to work Marilyn progressed her idea at a meeting with Mr. Robert Light of Hilly Fields, Woodbridge on 12th November 1976. From those discussions a public meeting was arranged to determine whether a service of this nature was needed and, if so, to set up a steering committee to look into the feasibility. This meeting, which my wife Kath and I attended, was held on 23rd November 1976 at Ipswich Central Library. A need was established and a steering committee was elected with Robert Light as Chairman and Marilyn Brooks as secretary. I was also a member. The first meeting of the Steering Committee was held in early December 1976.

Following around six weeks of investigation and planning by the steering committee an Inaugural and First Annual General Meeting of Ipswich and District Talking Newspaper was held in The Corn Exchange, Ipswich on 26th January 1977. At this meeting the proposals put forward by the steering committee were accepted and unanimously agreed, and a full committee was elected. This consisted of Robert Light (Chairman), Marilyn Brooks (Secretary), Anthony Broster (Treasurer), Mr. A H Pyatt (Editor) and members Ian Lowrie, David Whiting, Clive Moore, Bill Turnbull and Brian Lockie. One or two other members were also co-opted on to the committee as the need arose.

For the next eight months we met regularly, sometimes every fortnight, to agree details as varied as which was the best equipment to purchase, the name, insurance, accommodation, technicians, readers, editors, selection of users, maintenance and training. Above all else our over-riding priority was of course fund-raising – at the time Marilyn first proposed the idea of a Talking Newspaper the estimated cost of launching the service was £3500 plus £1000 per year running and maintenance costs. Although it has proved impossible for me to work out exactly how much we did raise, I found it interesting to note that at our committee meeting on 1st February 1977 the Treasurer reported a balance in hand of £125; during October of that year he reported receipts of £3785 and expenditure on purchasing equipment alone of £2789. The support we had with fund-raising was tremendous; it meant that at our meeting on 17th August we could agree that we would aim to launch the service on either 13th or 20th October.

Choosing a name for the Ipswich and District Talking Newspaper proved to be more difficult than expected. The committee first considered this at our meeting on the 2nd March 1977 when ‘On Tape’, ‘Sound News’, ‘Tape Deck’ and ‘Sound of Ipswich’ were proposed, however no decision was made. At our next meeting on 16th March twelve other suggestions were considered. These included ‘Switch On’, ‘News Time’, ‘Listen In’, ‘Sound News’, ‘In Touch’ and ‘Sound Around’. All of these were also rejected for various reasons and a decision was put off for three months. However, after some further discussion at our meeting on 20th April my suggestion of ‘Sound-On’ was agreed. Where did the name come from? The world of film where I started my working life in 1965. It appears at the start of each reel of film to indicate the beginning of the sound-track.

Picking suitable theme music was almost as difficult, although we did have the invaluable assistance of professional pianist Clive Moore as a committee member. He listened at length to many tracks from his large collection of records and tapes then supplied samples of some suitable tracks to the Chairman – he also offered to compose a theme tune if necessary. Eventually though the Chairman and committee left the final choice up to Clive and at the meeting on 4th October he supplied details of the music he had chosen.

During September and early October we held various successful practice runs for the editorial, reading, and technical teams, as well as working out the packing and unpacking routines needed each week all of which allowed the first edition of ‘Sound-On’ to be sent out to 100 or so users on 13th October 1977.

After some teething problems, particularly with the type and quality of cassettes used being unsuitable for high-speed duplicating, the production of ‘Sound-On’ settled down into a fairly well planned and trouble-free routine. So much so that at our committee meeting on 8th March 1978 – barely four months after the launch in Ipswich – we discussed the possibility of expanding the service to Felixstowe, Woodbridge and other surrounding towns; ‘and District’ had always been included in the name of the organisation for just this reason. Felixstowe was the first area chosen and a public meeting was held at Felixstowe Library on 19th June 1978. From this meeting sufficient support was pledged for the service to go ahead with Clive Garnham leading the planning. At a committee meeting on 12th July it was agreed that, because the Felixstowe area had already donated around £200 to the funds, users there could receive tapes and players immediately without further fund-raising. It was also agreed to leave Woodbridge until Felixstowe was established. The inaugural meeting for the Woodbridge expansion took place on 16th October 1978 when again sufficient support was offered for the service to begin. Initially tapes were sent to five users who required a ‘Sound-On’ tape player and to several others who already had a suitable machine. Following this expansion the committee decided that there should now be a ‘settling-down’ period of at least six months, mainly to avoid exceeding the capacity of the duplicating equipment and the packing volunteers.

Two years after the inaugural meeting was held, at our committee meeting held on 10th January 1979, the chairman informed members that Ian Lowrie who had been responsible for most of the technical side of setting up ‘Sound-On’ would be resigning as he and his wife were emigrating shortly. Also both myself and Clive Moore decided that we would not seek re-election at the AGM to be held in February that year. Pressure of other work meant that neither of us was able to give the amount of time needed to the committee, although I did continue to be involved with recording and production for a while. Having been with the project since its inception, Bob Light eventually resigned as Chairman at the 1987 AGM after ten years of guiding the ship, but I believe that he remained involved with Ipswich and District Talking Newspaper until shortly before his death.

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