A recording service for the Blind was established in 1958 by the Glasgow Tape Recording Club who produced, every two months, on reel-to-reel tape, a Magazine of information – and documentary-type items of general and local interest. At that time, it was distributed to around 60 blind and visually impaired people who owned a reel-to-reel recorder, most of whom lived in the Glasgow area. Even then, however, some copies were sent to other parts of the country.
In 1975, Donald Anderson approached the Glasgow and West of Scotland Society for the Blind to ask if they would help finance an expanded tape recording service for the Blind. They agreed and provided money, as well as a room in their premises at 276 St. Vincent Street, in the heart of Glasgow.
The final edition of the Glasgow Sound Magazine was sent out in April 1976. With a number of subsequent improvements to the St. Vincent Street ‘studio’ (including the luxury of a new carpet), we were ready to record the first edition of Playback Magazine for May, 1976. With the professional help of Iris Robertson-Brown, a studio manager with the BBC, the first edition began to take shape and was christened, fittingly, with an inaugural message recorded by Mr. Gordon Mackinnon, president of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Society for the Blind. The first edition was distributed to 260 people and its completion was a proud moment for Donald Anderson, who had put so much work into establishing the service.
A New Approach...
By 1979, the service had grown to the extent that it became difficult to organise on a totally voluntary basis. By that time, the Social Services (previously run by the Society for the Blind) had been taken over by the local council. Donald Anderson, with the help of others, approached the council to establish a full time post at the Playback service. In June, 1980, Mr. Peter Fraser was appointed coordinator of the service. This appointment gave Playback the opportunity to record more publications than ever before.
Playback Recording Service for the Blind became a registered charity in August, 1987 and has its own management committee appointed at their Annual General Meeting. The Service is continually supported by the City of Glasgow Council.
In the same year, a second full-time position was established and Ian Glover joined the team. He left the service in 1993 and John Green was appointed to fill the position. Since then, John has continued to expand the library service and assist with all other parts of the service. The library itself now contains over 1,000 titles spanning a wide range of subjects. Some of the titles, particularly a number of Scottish books, have been recorded by our volunteer readers.
Audio described videos have now been added to our library and are also available on loan. All parts of the Service are available to Blind and Visually Impaired people, and a small number of people who are print handicapped in some way also make use of the newspaper and library service.
Over the years, the Reading Service has expanded and since 1976 it has recorded a variety of material for individuals and organisations. The service is free to visually impaired people, but a small charge is made or a donation asked for, from commercial organisations. We hope we have made a significant contribution to access to information for a large number of Blind and Visually Impaired people.
Playback Magazine continues to be the flagship recording of the service, providing news, information and entertainment to thousands of people, mainly in the West of Scotland, but also throughout the United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. One copy even goes to a blind Student of English in Glasgow’s twin city, Rostov on Don!
John Green now looks after the production of all material from the Playback service. He replaced Peter Fraser who retired in 2002. Peter continues as producer of Playback Magazine and secretary of Playback charity. For his work in tapes for the Blind since 1960, Peter was awarded the MBE in 1994. In 1993 he was presented with the Grimshaw Award by the National Federation of the Blind. In addition, Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall presented him with a Caithness Glass Bowl for the work carried out by the Playback Service in recording their monthly Event Guide. The volunteer reader involved, Leonora Smart, was similarly honoured.
Thanks go to all 80 or so volunteers who continue to support the service, and without whose help Playback could not exist.