posted on April 12th, 2024

Sound Around Ards Celebrate 40th Anniversary

On Thursday 4th April, Sound Around Ards (Talking Newspapers) volunteers joined with former volunteers, family, friends and guests to celebrate their belated 40th anniversary at Royal Belfast Golf Club. Sound Around Ards is a community-based charity who support people in the Ards Peninsula area who have visual impairment, which means they have difficulties reading the local papers.

Their guests of honour were the Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Jennifer Gilmour, Lord Weir of Ballyholme and members of the committee of the Association of Talking Newspapers NI.

This celebration was made possible by the generosity of the Community Lottery Fund NI, which awards money raised by the National Lottery to communities across the whole of the UK, who work with local groups and UK charities, enabling people and charities to thrive. They provided the funding for the celebration, as well as the funding to replace all Sound Around Ards’ outdated equipment and furniture in their studio in the Old Laboratories at Ards Hospital and purchase materials to promote their work.

Sound Around Ards (Talking Newspapers) was started in 1980, so they should have been celebrating this anniversary in 2020, but because of the pandemic this was not possible. The company was started by Newtownards Lions Group and the charity were delighted that, even though the Lions Group is no longer in existence, four of their former members were able to join the Sound Around Ards volunteers at Royal Belfast to help them celebrate this milestone.

Sound Around Ards has three volunteers who have been with them right from the start, 44 years ago, with their longest-serving volunteer, Trevor Dillon, in attendance.

Alongside the Lions Group, attending the event was George Morris who was the pioneer of Ards Hospital who donated equipment to the charity over the years.

In his speech, the Chairman of Sound Around Ards, Phil Baron, thanked the Mayor especially for all her support throughout her year in office and paid tribute to the 34 current volunteers, as well as all the former volunteers present, for keeping the charity going for almost 44 years. He said: “Why would you become a volunteer? Why would you stop off at Ards Hospital on a Thursday night on your way home after a busy shift in a hospital or a busy day as a member of a farming family? Why would you leave the warmth of your own home on a dark, wet winter night to speak into a microphone? Why would you travel from Donaghadee, Bangor or Groomsport on those nights? Well, I can tell you because every volunteer, in whatever capacity, cares. They care for people whose lives are very different. They care and think of those less fortunate. They don’t know them personally, don’t know what they look like and, in most cases, don’t know their names, but listeners know their voices and that makes such a difference. They provide comfort, they let them know that they matter and, above all, they feel very much a part of the local community by being kept up-to-date with the local news. This is reflected in the messages we receive through card and notes put inside the CD covers when they are returned from the listeners.”

In replying to Mr Baron, the Mayor said: “Well done to all of the volunteers who have stepped forward over the years to give a voice to the local news stories, their recordings bringing that local news to a wider audience. At Christmas time, I enjoyed going along to the studio and recording my mayoral Christmas message to the readers. Volunteers make an invaluable contribution to making Ards and North Down the best place to live. This anniversary is a great opportunity to spread the word about this wonderful service that you provide, and I hope that, in another 44 years, Sound Around Ards is still going from strength to strength.”

The evening was rounded off by the Chair of the Association of Talking Newspapers NI, Patricia McGuinness, who congratulated Sound Around Ards on this wonderful milestone and brought greetings from the other Talking Newspaper Groups in NI.

The Members of Ballyblack Women’s Institute who make up over 50% of the Sound Around Ards volunteers.
Volunteers John Faros, Stuart White and Penny White.
Lord Weir, Patricia McGuinness (Chair of the Association of Talking Newspapers NI) and Julie Russell (Secretary of the Association of Talking Newspapers NI).
Phil Baron (Chair of Sound Around Ards) with volunteer Kay Johnston and Rebekah Trimble.

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