Volunteers at one of the town’s longer-established charities are planning a publicity drive.
They hope it will solve a mystery.
Bexhill Talking Newspaper Association has been serving blind and partially-sighted people in the town since 1977.
It provides a free weekly service which aims to keep people with vision problems in touch with the community.
Each week volunteers edit, read and record 45 minutes of news provided by the Bexhill Observer for the benefit of those who can no longer read the paper for themselves.
Working in teams, other volunteers read, record – and sometimes write their own – “magazine” material which accounts for a further 45 minutes listening time each week.
Since its inception, the system has relied on the tried-and-tested compact cassette.
It was advances in the bulk-copying of cassette tapes which led to a network of individual charities which now covers most towns in the country.
However, technology is moving on. Soon compact cassettes will be a thing of the past.
After lengthy investigation of the available options, Bexhill Talking Newspaper has invested in computerised equipment.
Volunteers have been training in digital recording and bulk-copying.
In a pilot project, the first blind listeners have been receiving their talking newspaper in the form of electronic memory sticks.
Now volunteers are preparing to visit the home of every listener to issue them – free of charge - with “boom boxes,” simple devices for playing the memory sticks.
The process will involve helping every listener become familiar with the boom boxes.
Listeners such as 92 year-old retired engineer Ted Tulley are finding that digital recording brings better sound reproduction.
Once mastered, the memory sticks are far easier to operate than cassette tape.
Bexhill Talking Newspaper was founded at the instigation of Bexhill Lions Club.
The Lions International movement has had the needs of those with impaired vision at the forefront of its community service since its inception.
It introduced the concept of the white stick to the UK, for example.
The founding father of the talking newspaper movement in this area was Lion Ted Davies, of Heathfield Lions Club.
At his behest, newly-founded Bexhill Lions Club called a public meeting at the De La Warr Pavilion in September 1976.
Such was public support for the idea that by February 1977 a committee had been formed, funds raised, equipment bought and volunteers trained.
Initially, the BTNA shared a small office in Jameson Road, thanks to the generosity of Bexhill Caring Community. After a succession of moves, it now has a recording studio and committee room in an office block off London Road.
The first officers were drawn largely from Lions Club membership. But the intention was always that the charity should be independent and over its 36 years the BTNA has been fortunate in attracting devoted volunteers drawn from all walks of life. Many have given the charity long service.
Bexhill Lions Club recently responded to the challenge BTNA was facing in “going “digital” with a generous donation towards the cost.
From small beginnings – the first cassettes were delivered on his motorcycle by a young man working for his Duke of Edinburgh Award – the appeal for local visually-impaired people of having their own talking newspaper grew rapidly.
At its peak, Bexhill Talking Newspaper was bringing its message to nearly 200 listeners a week via the Articles for the Blind postal service.
Gradually, however, listener numbers dropped – and this is where the element of mystery creeps into the picture.The charity recognised that with the passing years it would lose its older listeners.
It was also inevitable that others would move from the district or become so incapacitated that they no longer wanted the talking paper.
It also hoped that advances in medical science were reducing the number of people needing the talking paper.
But the current publicity drive has been prompted by the fact that little more than 100 listeners are currently taking advantage of the service.
The charity is concerned that people with impaired vision who would benefit from and enjoy the service are missing out on its benefits simply because they are unaware of its existence.
A poster campaign aimed at catching the eye of relatives and carers will focus on local ophthalmic practices, GP surgeries and the like.
Anyone living in the town who is encountering serious problems with reading the printed word may be considered for free Bexhill Talking Newspaper membership.
They or their carers are invited to contact the association’s chairman, Cllr Brian Kentfield, on 01424 842966.