Staff member Chris Kirk paid a visit to our Radio Play Society in Brighton to find out what happens when you put blind veterans in front of a microphone.
The Brighton Radio Play Society has been running as a club for five years now. It has a member-led committee which is helped and facilitated by staff members along with some dedicated volunteers.
It all started with a conversation between Chris, Lou and veteran John Taylor. John said that he missed acting on stage as he had to stop when he became blind. John’s blindness, which is known as “black blind”, happened suddenly and prevented him from performing in musicals for the Worthing Musical Comedy Society.
By coincidence I used to film their shows for them when I was working as a freelance cameraman for the BBC, so knew John when he was sighted. Having a camera and editing background, I suggested to him that we could try radio to keep his hobby going. Lou had a theatre management background so we started planning a small test session.
Lou got the idea from the book Beyond the Mind’s Eye, which mentioned a live radio play society that used to run at our Church Stretton centre. John was writing a very ambitious musical and we laugh now at how we had to scale it down as it would have had a cast of over 50 people. He was meant to arrive at our test session on his own, but instead arrived with many others who were interested in taking part.
The early shows were a little shaky but they did showcase the incredible amount of hard work that our members were putting in. Often veterans had to overcome real adversity, such as memory and speech problems or general stage fright.
At present the club has eight regular members, with approximately 70 visiting members that come during their holidays. Some we see only once, while others attend on a regular basis. Some even make a special journey to record with the group.
The Radio Play Society has been featured on radio and television. The club appeared on Armed Forces TV and veterans have been interviewed on local radio stations many times in the past few years. There have also been two videos made, both of which can be found on our channel on YouTube. The group recently recorded a play which demanded a Yorkshire accent, so the veterans started watching Emmerdale to help them pick up the accent!