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Coach naming honour for dedicated news volunteer

Posted onPosted on 8th Apr

A man who has dedicated 40 years of volunteering to help put together a newspaper for the blind has been honoured by a travel company.

Travel firm Skills Holidays has named a single-decker coach that has travelled around Europe after Bill Purdue, who regularly uses items from the Mansfield, Ashfield and Warsop News Journal for the talking newspaper.

Bill, 71, a retired librarian, is the editor of the Mansfield and Ashfield Echo, which is recorded for the blind and partially-sighted once a fortnight and sent out free of charge.

He was nominated to be one of Nottingham-based Skills Holidays’ Stars of Skills after the travel firm appealed for local heroes to have a coach named after them, as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations.

Bill, of Skegby, was put forward by fellow volunteer on the newspaper, Janet Roberts, and was presented with the honorary namesake at Skills’ open day at their head office in Bulwell.

Bill said: “It’s a big surprise, it’s amazing. I’m very flattered.

“If people see my name on the side of that bus, they will say ‘who on Earth’s that?!’

Bill, who had previously worked in hospital radio, had gone along to a meeting in 1979 of a group of people thinking about setting up a talking newspaper.

The pilot edition, only 30 minutes long, was recorded in the former Mansfield studio of BBC Radio Nottingham in the October of that year.

He had already been editor of a talking newspaper in Coventry, before returning to Nottinghamshire for a librarian job.

Forty years later, he is still going, helping to co-ordinate the recordings of content as part of a team of around 20 volunteers.

Over the years, the team has paid for cassette-copiers out of their own pocket, and had to find somewhere to record.

“It’s all local news,” said Bill, who also volunteers at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham.

“We started off with the Mansfield Chad — they said ‘yes, you can use our material’.

“Now we use the Mansfield and Ashfield News Journal, and we also got permission to use any relevant items from the Nottingham Post.”

As well as using local newspaper content, the volunteers also record their own interviews, articles and features for each 75-minute edition, which is available on CD or memory stick and posted free-of-charge by Royal Mail.

The team meets every other Tuesday at a studio in Mansfield and the newspaper is distributed to 125 people in Mansfield and Ashfield, with one former native having the paper delivered o Wales.

Bill said: “I enjoy doing it. It’s nice to get nice comments from the listeners. You know you are doing something worthwhile.”
Janet, a features writer on the newspaper for more than 30 years, who nominated Bill, said: “The newspaper is an amazing production that goes out every other Tuesday.

“It needs an enormous amount of material and most features last about four minutes.

“Bill has become a good personal friend.

“He is amazing. There’s hardly a recording in 40 years that he hasn’t attended.

“He’s always there and it’s a huge task. People send content in and he has to sort all that — getting it worked out, who to read it, and how long it’s going to take.

“He plans his holiday around it — everything is geared towards the Echo.

“It’s staggering — to do that for 40 years is some commitment.”

Nigel Skill, chairman of Skills Holidays, added: “It gives me great pleasure to name one of our coaches after Bill, who is such a devoted servant to not only his community, but to the blind and partially-sighted in his community.

“We had so many nominations from our appeal to find a local hero, but we just couldn’t ignore the hard work and commitment that Bill has poured into the talking newspaper over the past 40 years. We salute you, Bill.”

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