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Our History

In 1969 Ronald Sturt, head of librarianship at an Aberystwyth college, during a study visit to Sweden, met a group of volunteers taping news for the blind. On returning to Wales he found local businessmen more than willing to finance a similar scheme.

The pioneering Cardiganshire Talking Newspaper was introduced in January 1970. Others soon followed and the Talking Newspaper Association of the United Kingdom was formed with Ronald Sturt as Chairman and later President. By the 1990s there were over 500 groups.

Photo showing readers, equipped with headphones and microphones, recording articles from the newspaper.

On 24 September 1984 a public meeting in Aylsham, instigated by Mrs Jean Walden a coordinator with Voluntary Services for the Visually Handicapped and Miss Vicki Cotton a Divisional Youth and Community Officer in Aylsham, tentatively proposed a Talking Newspaper for the North Norfolk area. This included Blakeney, along the coast to Sea Palling and inland an area more or less bounded by Hoveton, Hevingham, Saxthorpe and Holt.

Photo showing two volunteers working on a pile of yellow mailing wallets to remove returned cassette tapes and register their receipt.

North Norfolk News ran a competition, with a £10 prize, to choose a name for the talking newspaper. The winner, Mr S.G. Craske, suggested The Mardler. In Norfolk dialect “mardle” means “to gossip”.

Photo showing a volunteer operating a bank of cassette copying machines.

Aylsham Methodist Church in White Hart Street offered a room in its cottages in December 1984 and weekly production began on 13 August 1985. By September 1989 the original half-hour tape had been stretched to a popular, two-sided ninety minutes.

Photo showing a group of volunteers checking the copies using headphones and cassette players.

In that same year a £100 signature tune competition was won by Frederick Bird of Norwich with Here is the News and Jonathan Peacock of Bristol won £75 for his Mardler March. Adrian Lucas, deputy organist at Norwich Cathedral, supervised the BBC recording of the winning music by Aylsham Silver Band. New music was commissioned for the Magazine in 2006 and the music and overall format of all productions is continually under review.

A short clip of “Here is the News”

The number of listeners varies from year to year but in 2023 this was around one hundred. Our volunteers, the life-blood of the Charity, number about sixty and are constantly coping with ever faster and more sophisticated, computerised equipment and production routines.

The late John Timpson was a very good friend to The Mardler, both as a reader and President. He shared his considerable broadcasting experience providing a recording of his AngliaPhile article in the Norfolk Journal to the Mardler Magazine every month from January 1990 until his death in October 2005.

Photo showing John Timpson seated at a desk in the recording studio.

John was very much a hands-on President, enlivening AGMs with his hilarious stories of life as a BBC Royal Correspondent. Fortunately, our archive of over 100 of his recordings ensures our listeners will continue to enjoy his unique way with words delivered in his so distinctive voice.

In 2010 the Mardler ceased production of cassette tapes and CDs and used exclusively memory sticks for all its recordings. The reason for the change was to economise on maintenance costs and to reduce and simplify the volunteer labour. It also eliminated the eco-unfriendly discarding of CDs.

Photo showing a selection of plastic, mailing wallets, cassette tapes, compact discs and USB memory sticks.

You can listen to some of our early recordings here.