Category Archives: Personal stories

An Afternoon at Milton Keynes Theatre by Caroline Pearson

Thanks to a generous grant from Milton Keynes Community Foundation, a small group of Service Users supported by volunteers enjoyed an audio-described performance of The Little Mermaid.  Northern Ballet returned to Milton Keynes for this very different and amazing production.

The day began with a workshop facilitated by two of the dancers from the production.  We explored the story-line as well as the dance and movements which would be described during the performance.  The Production Manager was also present, describing the stage setting and helping out with the many costumes shown to us.  These were beautifully made, very colourful and truly a delight to see and feel close-up!

We then had time to sort out our headsets for the audio-described performance which was provided by Vocaleyes.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the performance and the audio description was excellent.  Audio description opens up so many opportunities for people with sight loss.  Milton Keynes Reader Service very much appreciates the support from the Community Foundation to enable those with visual impairments to enjoy events such as this.

Caroline Pearson, MKRS Management Committee

Nana’s Eggheads Report!

Riddle me Glasgow, Eggheads and more. 

The somewhat accurate account of how I became a television sensation by volunteering for the Milton Keynes Reader Service started right at the beginning of my involvement on their committee.

 For most people, joining a charity committee isn’t sprinkled with as much glamour as I had the opportunity to experience.

“You’re going to be on television!” they told me. “Boy, you’ll be a star.” These words may have fallen directly from the mouth of our lovely Service Coordinator, Karen Preece or they might only be for your exclusive reading pleasure here.  

Regardless of the truth, the glitz of being on television, the eventual fame, or the opportunity to improve awareness for the charity and the help we provide, overcame my innate introversion. So of course, after a breath of thought, how could I say no? 

First came the paperwork; of course there would be paperwork and a lot of it too! The daunting amount wasn’t so much the problem as the distinct feeling that I was signing away my first- born to BBC Scotland. I won’t bore you with the minutia of TV appearance contracts, but I will say that the BBC made it suspiciously easy and their staff were very polite and professional.

 Arriving at the train station on our departure date to Glasgow, we descended on the platform with auspicious grace – only to have the train nearly leave us! Imagine our shock; how could it be that the signal-man could somehow overlook us walking towards the train? Still, even with the inappropriate whistling for the train to depart without us, we managed to make it on board without breaking the golden rule of classic BBC television: you don’t run when cameras are rolling. 

The trip itself was neither eventful, nor subdued. What was expected to be a pleasantly quiet journey of many grand napping opportunities turned somehow into a buzz of social back and forth.

 My initiative to quietly sleep my way to Glasgow was completely overturned by our Treasurer, Steven’s anecdotes; our former chair, Paula’s banter, my fellow committee member, Jeff’s commentary and what I felt was a pleasant spirit of camaraderie. I graciously relented and cut free all plans to slumber, letting myself get pulled into this and that conversation before, unknowingly, we arrived. 

Thankfully, the scramble to disembark was just as auspicious and graceful as our embarkation. The obligatory facility visits were made after partaking in the very necessary discussion of fried mars bars and haggis for dinner.

We walked a convenient distance to our first hotel which, if not entirely healthy, was at least bold enough to offer us the mature scents of smokers generations past. Now, I personally felt that the faint scent of cigarette smoke seeping from the carpets added strong character to this establishment. However, I chose not to comment too loudly on it so as not to overburden the staff with compliments. 

The next day, the men of the group spent the day in as English- a-fashion as to make Churchill and Thatcher leap for joy over our decision to continue the proud tradition of Englishmen in foreign countries the world over. That is to say, of course, we pottered off to the nearest museum.

After what was admittedly, a very interesting time learning about 1920s Glasgow and its newly discovered riches in Italian ice-cream-making immigrants, we walked back to the hotel, refreshed and with fingers crossed that the coming challenge focused heavily on 1920s Glasgow and/or Italian ice-cream-making immigrants. 

Some hours later, after learning of our treasurer’s fond memory of Irn Brew (now rekindled), we sat in the lobby of BBC Scotland. The beginnings of our nerves were showing as we cradled tea and leant in to speak in harsh whispers of the possibly famous people traversing the floor.

 Thankfully, the staff were very supportive. They were, despite what Steven assured me were possibly 12 year olds in office wear, professional in manner and very helpful in calming our worries. Though in retrospect dear reader even I have to admit I felt suddenly quite wizened in comparison to their youthful energy and positive outlook.

 After we were ushered upstairs and briefed on the backstage dance that is required of all television stars. There was yet another round of paperwork. Though this time, with a camera present, it felt as though signing away our liberties in some police procedural drama. If Jeremy Vine had seen how well we held our cool, he would have had no choice but to support our meteoric rise to star in Broadchurch, or even the Bill.

 What happened next is forbidden from these pages by enough red tape to piece back a Humpty Dumpty the size of Jeremy Clarkson’s bank account. Let us just say that our performance during the show itself is best enjoyed on the big screen. Besides, such quizzing prowess should not be belittled by whatever simple description I could muster for it here.

 Nevertheless, with nerves of steel to carry us through, we survived the evening. And really, because they deserve a faithful mention as well, Jeremy Vine, the Eggheads and the stage crew were a joy to meet and they, more than the experience of being on television, I think, were a large part of what made it fun. 

In all, the experience was a pleasure. What started with some mix of nerves and trepidation ended in a journey that was a delight, well worth a repeat performance.

Nana is at the far right on the front row

Pat’s Poem -1st Prize in the Bucks Vision Defraine Competition


Of all the things I long to see,

The thing that means the most to me,

     It’s not a tree, a bird, a place,

     It’s just to see your dearest face.

     To look into your eyes grey-blue,

     So stead-fast, loyal and so true.

     To watch your lips curl into a smile,

     That lingers gently for a while.


And then I found the gift of touch,

To help recall what means so much.

To feel your mouth, your cheek, your brow

Can help me view the face I know.

My fingertips can softly trace

The gentle contours of your face.

As if by magic then I find

        That I can see you in my mind……

Pat Smith (9th January 2015)

Congratulations, Pat – a beautiful sentiment!

Judy Smith: My Experience of the MK Reader Service

My husband, Alan, and I moved to Olney in February 2014. We are both registered blind; Alan has some useful sight for getting around, but not for reading and I am totally blind. We had lived in the same house in London for over 30 years and had built up a strong network of friends and neighbours. We could rely on one friend to help us read complex documents and fill in lengthy forms. When I retired, I had considerable difficulty in finding people to read to me on a regular basis as there was no dedicated service. I thought that advertising for help would be too risky because the reading matter would include personal financial and medical information. By chance, we met a couple on holiday who told us about the MK Reader service. I ‘phoned the office directly we got home and Karen was very encouraging. She advised us to get in touch when we moved to Olney.

We duly telephoned Karen soon after we moved and, within days, she came to visit us. Karen gave us details about the Service which had been set up by visually impaired people over twenty years ago. We learned that volunteers were able to assist with other activities besides reading, such as shopping or attending theatres or cinemas. Karen then went into details about our particular needs. I explained that I would need help in reading personal correspondence and filling in forms. I would like help in looking through brochures for theatre and opera performance and general leaflets. I had worked as a social worker in Child Psychiatry, so I would like help in reading journals which include quite a lot of technical terms. I also told Karen that I enjoy opera and that I didn’t know how I was going to be able to pursue my interest; I had always gone to performances with friends when I was in London. Karen said that she would look out for volunteers who would be interested.

We were astounded when Karen got back to us after 2/3 weeks to say that she had found some possible volunteers for us and could she bring them over to meet us. We set up separate times for the two volunteers. Karen introduced me to Linda and we had the opportunity to learn a little about each other’s backgrounds and interests. Karen went over the conditions of the service, stressing the need for confidentiality and agreeing that Linda would be able to commit to an hour a week to read to me. Linda was able to start straight away and has been extremely helpful – even coping with the psychiatric jargon! Karen kept in touch with us both independently to check whether we felt happy with the arrangement.

When I learned that a MK cinema had a live-screening of an opera from the Royal Opera House, I contacted Karen who found a volunteer who was interested to come with me. Karen provided the relevant contact details and I was delighted to be able to go to the performance. Since then, Karen has introduced me to several volunteers who were able to accompany me to cinema and theatre performances. However, over the year Linda and I have developed a friendship and discovered that we have several interests in common, so now we often go to the cinema or theatre together.

I don’t know how I would have coped with our move to Olney without the help of the Reader service. I believe that it is unique and I feel very lucky to have moved into the Milton Keynes area. The service has also enabled me to meet other visually impaired people and their volunteers through attending the coffee mornings which Karen organises.

Steve Neale


“I have been a member of the Milton Keynes Reader Service for a long time. The service is a lifeline in keeping me informed. My volunteer assists me with my post which is a real help in my everyday life. My volunteer helps to develop my main hobbies of music (both playing and listening) and poetry. The MKRS also has lots of social events where both volunteers and service users can meet up. I find these events a particularly enjoyable part of being a member of the Milton Keynes Reader Service.”

Steve Neale