November Update by Rod
On the wall in the cafeteria at The Old Heathcoat School Community Centre are a couple of certificates issued by the BBC. They ran Wireless School Examinations. In 1927, during the Hilary term, a Stanley James of Heathcoat Boys School passed, with distinction, an examination on ‘Travel Talks’. Later that year, in the Michaelmas Term, he passed a further examination, again with distinction, on ‘Out of Doors’.
What, one may ask, has that to do with the Mid Devon Messenger?
Those exams were to do the schools’ education programmes broadcast by the BBC, so little to do with the process of research, editing, and recording of a programme or item. But today, 94 years later, the Mid Devon Messenger is at the old school, recording news, features, quizzes and reviews for both the visually Impaired, who listen via a USB Memory Stick Player, and others who have trouble accessing the printed word, but who can listen to the recordings via a range of applications on smart phone, tablet, or smart speaker.
Based in the Britton Building to the left of the main school, we hire a room, which at the weekend turns into the room for Registry Office marriages.
On a Tuesday evening, at about 6:30, five tables are set up. One to take the sound desk – housed in a piano keyboard carrying case – the others for the readers. Sound deadening cloths are placed on the tables; microphone stands are clamped to the tables and the microphones wired up. Having to set the room up afresh each week does test the technician for the week as they seek to achieve a constant sound quality and volume or loudness level across the recordings, which do include
pre-recorded tracks. Consistency here is still a challenge.
Come the end of the recording, while the technician is busy with post recording editing and the preparation of a master USB, the readers dismantle the microphones and stands – putting them away while leaving the tables out for the Dispatch and Copy team. They will be coming in on the Wednesday morning to prepare the posting of the recordings to our listeners across the wider Tiverton and Culm Valley area of Mid Devon and beyond. The technician, having produced the Master USB, will also take a copy to upload to the British Wireless for the Blind (BWBF) internet player which makes the weekly recording available around the world – a World Service. Perhaps not on a par with the BBC – but there all the same.