Armistice Day in Epsom

Photograph of the Mayor and Mayoress of Epsom and Ewell
Mayor Humphrey Reynolds and Mayoress

Covid-19 did not deter the people of Epsom and Ewell from gathering, at a distance, in the market square, to pay their respects to those who had lost their lives in wars and conflicts past and present.

To a backdrop of the town’s French Food Market, on Wednesday 11th November at precisely 11am, people bowed their heads and reflected during the two-minute silence.

Photograph of Mayor of Epsom and Ewell Humphrey Reynolds and Len Lainsbury

In stark contrast to last year’s town centre Remembrance Service, observed by around 200 onlookers, Covid-19 had prohibited the presence of Armed Forces, Police, Scouts, Cadets, and school children. This year onlookers watched as The Mayor of Epsom and Ewell, Councillor Humphrey Reynolds, not dressed this year in ceremonial attire, and his wife Gillian the Mayoress, laid a wreath at the foot of the Clock Tower.

Photograph of Sebastian in front of Taste of Spain market stall in Epsom
Sebastian in front of his Taste of Europe market stall

Len Lainsbury, who joined the Army in 1952, later becoming a Sergeant, was among the gathering of around seventy people who had come to show respect. He was there, he said, to represent his family who’d served in both Army and Navy and were lost in conflict.

French stall-holder Sebastian described the occasion as simple and dignified. ‘In France young people don’t always connect with remembrance, it seems lost in the corridors of time. People here today really felt a connection.’

The Mayor spoke briefly to me with a message for our listeners, saying:

‘I am delighted that so many people have come here today to observe the 2-minute silence, keeping their distance and wearing masks. Unfortunately, the Armed Services couldn’t be here because of Covid-19, but nevertheless the people of Epsom and Ewell were quiet and thoughtful.’

Following the two-minute silence, the flag was raised, the crowd applauded spontaneously and Epsom life continued. By News Editor Jan Collier

Lockdown Silences Our
Talking Newspaper
‘We’ll be back when it’s safe’
promises Chairman

Judy Sarssam in the recording studio
Judy Sarssam in the recording studio

For more than four decades, Thursdays have been the designated ‘recording day’ for a team of volunteers who produce a free audio newspaper for blind and visually impaired residents in the borough.

The Epsom and Ewell Talking Newspaper (EETN) the Charity visited earlier this year by Mayor Councillor John Beckett, is proud of its 46 year track record of 2275 weekly recordings.

But in a letter to its Listeners and volunteer team, Chairman Judy Sarssam expressed her sadness at its temporary suspension.

“In this unprecedented situation of lockdown due to the spread of the Coronavirus it has been impossible for the volunteers of the Epsom and Ewell Talking Newspaper to continue to record and distribute our weekly free service to over one hundred visually impaired people in the area.

We are devastated as in 46 years, apart from one week at Christmas, and one day of heavy snow, we have always been able to give access to local news, magazine articles, poems, jokes and podcasts to our eager Listeners.”

Judy went on to explain that whilst recording was still possible, it required volunteers to travel to the Epsom studio, not only to make the recording, but to duplicate, pack and distribute the memory sticks to one hundred and six registered Listeners.

“Digital technology has really come into its own during the lockdown”, she said, “however using it efficiently does rely on residual vision expertise and patience.

So despite everything on offer it is still most practical for our Listeners to receive their memory sticks once a week to play in the small, simple players that we provide

Back in February, during his interview with EETN, Cllr Beckett emphasised how much he valued the free Talking Newspaper service and fondly recalled his Aunt looking forward to receiving it every week. “I remember how much it meant to her and will mean to all your listeners,” he said. Judy, herself visually impaired, agreed with the Mayor, explaining that prior to becoming an EETN Committee Member and subsequently the Chairman, she was originally, and still is, a very enthusiastic Listener.

“During this unprecedented crisis I want to re-assure all EETN Listeners that normal service will be resumed as soon as it is safe to do so. Until then I urge everyone to keep safe and send good wishes to all our valued Listeners, Volunteers and the wider community,” she said.