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The Big Lottery Fund helps to fund talking books for the blind

December 2, 2015

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Llyfrau Llafar Cymru is an organisation based in Carmarthenshire who produce talking books for blind and partially blind people. Here its Chairman, Sulwyn Thomas, explains how funding from the Big Lottery Fund saved the organisation from near closure.

Five years flew somewhere. It might have had something to do with the fact that we had to work incredibly hard during that period to save a scheme that was very close to the heart of a person who lost her sight back in the seventies.

Let me explain. Rhian Evans was the girl. She was a librarian in Trinity College at the time and a person who was in her element surrounded by books. As her sight started to deteriorate, she realised that she couldn’t read her local weekly paper any longer so she went about setting up a talking newspaper for the blind people of Carmarthen and the area. A group of people came together to help and the idea was developed and had a warm welcome.

That wasn’t enough for Miss Evans. Would it be possible to start a scheme to improve the provision of talking books for the blind and partially blind? There were enough English books on cassette, but the material in Welsh was very rare, if it existed at all.  She realised that more than a small part time group would be needed in order to supply this new need. A dedicated service would need to be established, staff would need to be appointed and financial sponsorship would need to be sourced to pay for it.  Overcoming problems was always this girl’s aim and she succeeded in securing funding and a home for Cynllun Casetiau Cymraeg (Welsh Cassettes Scheme). The process of recording book after book began.

Though the scheme received support from more than one source, things started going wrong in 2010. The future of the entire scheme was in doubt and two posts were in danger of being lost along with over two thousand titles and the service would have to be reduced.  A group from Carmarthen, Rhian’s friends to be honest, took control of the scheme, gave it a new name, Llyfrau Llafar Cymru, registered as a charity and applied successfully for a grant to re-launch the service.

 

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By then, they received the books on a compact disk, or digitally, rather than on cassette, which led to another problem – two thousand titles needed to be transferred to a new, modern format.

 

How would we get hold of enough funding to move on?

We decided to turn to the Big Lottery Fund Wales.  An application was made for three years of funding. Forms were filled, questions were answered and we succeeded in getting the exact sum we asked for – £142,000. This meant there was a period ahead of us to strengthen the foundations, to develop and arrange publicity tours to spread the message.  We’re aware that there are hundreds more who could benefit from the service, but people with sight difficulties are very reluctant to admit that.

From the very beginning the discussion about our application, the regular correspondence and completing all the forms was done through the medium of Welsh. Balance sheet after balance sheet was received in Welsh.  Though we provide “books” relating to Wales in English, Welsh is the main language of our service. It was a lack of talking books in Welsh that inspired Rhian to set up the charity in the first place. We strongly believe that Welsh speakers shouldn’t be deprived of any service that isn’t available, for free, in English. We can’t praise the Big Lottery Fund highly enough for supporting a charity which gives priority to the Welsh language and without once questioning our aims.

And thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, some of the work which was mentioned three years ago has been completed, though there’s a very long way to go yet.

What we can say it that Llyfrau Llafar Cymru is going from strength to strength and the support from the Big Lottery Fund has spurred us on to raise our profile as well as raising our confidence to face the future.

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