Hi, my name is Marilyn and I have been involved in voluntary work of one sort or another for over 20 years. I’ve done just about everything from conservation tasks, community advocacy, hospital radio to prison visiting. Quite a mixture, you may think, but I always try to choose work that is demanding yet rewarding for myself and others.
I moved to Newbury early in 2007 and I heard about Living Paintings in Kingsclere about a year later. The Charity were looking for volunteers to help make and assemble the special Touch to See books they send out to their library members who are blind and partially sighted. This sounded very interesting, especially as I had suffered from poor eyesight all my life.
Having made contact with Liz Davies (Production Manager) and chatted about the volunteer opportunities, I was inspired by the whole concept of making the visual world accessible to blind and partially sighted people. I had never before encountered an organisation of this kind nor, I find, have many sighted people. It took me a little while to understand what exactly the Charity did but working in the production room, putting together books and helping with other jobs, I soon learned more about them. I now take great pleasure in explaining what we do to others who might benefit from their free library, lend their support to the Charity, or maybe volunteer.
After a few weeks in the production room, familiarising myself with the varied tasks, I realised that what I really wanted to do was to write the scripts that are recorded and accompany the raised tactile images. This is not a straightforward task by any means. The wording has to be accurate, descriptive and, above all, respectful of the audience and their needs. Also, the tone of the writing has to be in keeping with both the subject matter and the listener, whether it be a child, teenager or adult.
My first assignment was to write the scripts for a selection of flags, derived from the travel story in the book My Granny Went to Market. The recorded scripts have been incorporated into a book which includes a quiz and provides a fun learning experience for children.
My recent script writing has been for the British Wild Flowers Touch to See book – I wrote the section describing ‘Rivers, Lakes and Streams’. I set the scene in the Brecon Beacons National Park, the mountain range in south Wales. Here I took the listener on a journey from the upland streams down to the River Usk, the main river in this range, exploring as we went the wild flowers and other wild life we encountered. It was a pleasure to suggest several pieces of music to interweave with the dialogue, adding to the atmosphere of the narrative.
Volunteers like myself are a crucial part of Living Paintings, Liz explains,
“As a small charity, volunteers are the key to the delivery of our work and their contribution is what makes it possible to achieve so much with donations received. Our team of 220 volunteers undertake a range of tasks, many of which require specialist skills and training including hand-painting raised images, topical research, script writing for audios, carving master-artworks and processing around 400 library loans and returns each week.”
In my next blog I’ll tell you about the Touch to See Book Club titles I have been writing!
Why not borrow some of the Touch to See books Marilyn has helped create
• A Journey Around the World, including My Granny Went to Market
• Flag Quiz!
• British Wild Flowers
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