The History of Fenprobe

When Tony May, of Stretham in Cambridgeshire, lost his eyesight in his early thirties, he was determined to find a way of making local news available to others with similar problems.

The first tape was sent out at Christmas 1978. Enthusiastic volunteers raised money to buy recording equipment and cassette players, and readers were recruited from Ely dramatic societies.

Initially, tapes were a combination of news from local newspapers and interviews with local people. By March 1989, Fenprobe TN had become a weekly service with a separate magazine.

Early recordings were made in the living room of our President, Richard Hobbs. As the service grew, six groups recorded in six homes, which meant that six sets of recording equipment were needed. In 1999, Fenprobe TN moved into a bespoke studio rented from Cambridge Housing Society. The quality of the recording and copying equipment was upgraded and weekly production continued for another ten years. However, it then became apparent that cassette recording was going to be difficult to sustain. Tapes were becoming obsolete and servicing charges rose to a new high. After a lot of discussion and research, it was decided to make a radical change from cassette to digital recording and this was completed in the autumn of 2011.

Funded by The Big Lottery© and Grassroots©, the news is recorded via computer and the tapes are now USBs. This has meant a much better experience for our listeners. The sound is clear and the news is unlimited because there are no capacity constraints. Fenprobe provides each listener with a free digital player with just a USB slot in the top and simple controls. The listeners have written in to say how much they appreciate the change and nearly everyone found the changeover easy. Our costs - such as rent, recording and copying equipment, USBs and players - are met by private and corporate donations and grants.

In January 2019 we had to leave our Bedford House studio and a member offered the use of a well set up annexe to his home in Ely as our new base. Since moving in, recording technicians John Shippey and Steve Burgess have made several innovative changes to assist recording. Group members have also been encouraged to train as recording technicians and most groups have a member who is now able to take responsibility for recording.

News Headlines