Cry for help from talking newspaper

The 91st Netherlee Scouts launched Chatterbox from a storage cupboard in 1980.
The 91st Netherlee Scouts launched Chatterbox from a storage cupboard in 1980.

A VOLUNTEER group providing local news for East Renfrewshire’s visually impaired residents has issued a plea for help.

Chatterbox has been running since 1980, providing cassette tape versions of local news stories collected from your weekly edition of The Extra.

The talking newspaper scheme was first launched by the 91st Netherlee Scout group, and recordings took place in a storage cupboard.

When the project became expensive, the team joined the National Talking Newspaper Association

and used funding grants to create a purpose-built studio in the same Scout hall.

The involvement of the scouts has since fallen away, and Chatterbox is now run as a volunteer organisation.

Unfortunately, the group is losing money – and listeners – fast.

Raymond Cairns first became involved as a teenager 30 years ago, and in 1994 he began running the group.

He told The Extra: “Our figures go up and down. At one point, about 10 years ago, we had over 100 listeners – now we have 15.

“This is just a cry for help, because although we’ve been going for years and the national service groups know us, East Renfrewshire council don’t seem to be aware that we’re still running.

“I’d like to get more people on board listening, and also more volunteers – because those that have been doing it for years are less and less able to afford the time.

“We just want people to know that we’re still here to help”.

Volunteers work every second weekend, providing an hour of their time to record news stories on tape and distribute them – and Raymond hopes that with renewed support from the community, the group could also take advantage of new technology.

He continued: “Just now we put our work on to cassette tapes, but they’re fast becoming a rarity.

“It’s a constant overhead because I’m always spending money on them, as well as the copy equipment.

“With only 15 listeners, spending more money seems excessive, but I would like to go digital – add a computer to the recording studio, and put the recording onto a memory stick.

“I would like the Chatterbox service to continue for another 30 years, but we’ll have to re-market ourselves and become digital”.

For now, Raymond and his volunteers can only hope for more input from the community.

He added: “Initially Chatterbox was seen to be a three month Scout project, but has continued, so far, for over 30 years.

“The various team members can take pride in what they’ve accomplished over these years and should not be too downhearted if it was to come to an end”.

Find out more about volunteering, or registering for the Chatterbox service, by e-mailing