Interview with our new Chairman

Judy Sarssam (left) being interviewed by Jan Collier

We were delighted a couple of weeks back when our new Chairman Judy Sarssam came into the studio to chat with Jan Collier and tell our listeners a little about her life and her involvement with EETN. Judy said it was an interesting  and enjoyable experience being on the recording end of a microphone.

Here’s the full text of the interview:


Hello everyone, I’m Jan Collier and today I have the pleasure of chatting with our guest Judy Sarssam, whom we are delighted to say is our newly elected  Chairman of the Epsom and Ewell Talking newspaper..

Judy, who has been a dedicated committee member of EETN for many years, is not only our first ever female Chairman, and that’s in more than forty years, but being visually impaired herself is the perfect Ambassador to lead our newspaper forward.

So, first Judy a very warm welcome into the studio and thank you for taking the time to come in and introduce yourself to our listeners.

Well thank you very much for inviting me. It’s exciting for me to be this side of the microphone now, as for so many years I listened to the results of all the team’s hard work –so it’s very interesting and exciting for me to be here, thank you.

Indeed, and  we’ll be talking about being a listener and being visually impaired later, but firstly, as I know you are an accomplished artist and in fact  also Vice President of the charity Conquest Art, I wonder if you would paint a little picture for us of your very busy life, that’s combining your family and six grandchildren with your voluntary commitments.

Well , like all those people who are listening to this, they understand all the frustrations only too well and sometimes it’s the simple things in life that seem to be the most difficult. We have a wonderful family and I am blessed with a fantastic husband, we’ve been together for 52 years. He is literally my better half and he guides me, encourages me and really my life depends upon all his help in the background.

When the grandchildren are coming, we have it established like a military operation because I will walk into them,  fall over them,  even drop and lose things, so planning really makes the day successful, just like the people have to do here in the studio.

As I have very kindly been invited to be the Chair, I hope their confidence is well placed in me. I see what a wonderful distribution system, sound recording system, and all the complications involved and it is wonderful.

On the Art front I think my pleasure is the sensation of spreading paint. My vision is very very limited but in a very bright light I can make out some colours and I have special techniques. I can blow paint with straws, I use dark colours which contrast against a yellow or white paper. I use mounting sticks cut into rectangles,  double sided tape and a piece of felt put on the end,  with which I slosh paint around, so my product is unique to say the least .

That all sounds fantastic, I think we should all try some of those painting techniques.  Now , volunteering seems to come naturally to you, Judy, and you have said in the past that it was your own disability that opened your eyes to the difficulties others face. I believe your sight loss was a gradual process over many years and a direct result of other health issues, but like many of our listeners you have learned to adjust and to accentuate the positives in life.

Yes,  all life depends upon your attitude towards the situation you find yourself in, and I am blessed with the wonderful family around me.  I would have in normal circumstances, with full vision, enjoyed a career. But I feel I am a better person, more understanding,  more compassionate because of my experience. Conquest Art is providing groups for people with disabilities to explore their creativity. And so by meeting people with disabilities, one realises what wonderful, positive people there are. People who are happy, who are in very difficult circumstances, often alone, and yet able to get all the joy out of life that’s possible for their circumstances.  So I have found others, who you could call disabled, but who in fact are full of ability and not disability, who have been an inspiration to me and a great joy to work in this voluntary sector.

I think if you volunteer you are as committed, even more committed, than somebody getting a wage, so I have very much gained from my experiences being a volunteer and not the other way round.

How did you first become involved with EETN?

When I was registered blind, about 25 years ago, the volunteer from the then SAVVY now Sight For Surrey, introduced me to the different services that were available and one of them was Epsom and Ewell Talking Newspaper. And it has given me huge pleasure and social confidence, because when one is in a room, as all you listeners know, it is difficult to have topics of  conversation unless you know what is going on locally. So I have had great joy from the  Talking Newspaper and all the magazine sections and now of course the wonderful pod cast, which I thoroughly enjoy and will not allow my memory stick to be posted until I have listened to every single word.

That’s fantastic. Did you ever imagine as a listener that you would be one day Chairman?

I didn’t imagine it at all ever. As a Committee member, when I was asked I was seriously in doubt as to my ability to perform the role. Having been on the committee it’s very different from Chairing.

I was going to say that it is a huge responsibility and it does take time and dedication and I know that before accepting the role you told the committee you had to think very carefully. But you also said you had been inspired by some disabled sports enthusiasts who had overcome their disability to become journalists.

Yes, that is absolutely true . I felt very nervous about accepting the role and was on the point of saying I don’t think I can do this job. However, that week there were the Australian sportsmen, who were describing how they listened to and  enjoyed football and cricket and a couple of them had gone on to become journalists. And I thought , well, if they can do it, I’ll have a go.

That’s excellent.  Tell us what inspires you every day and how being a VIP yourself will help you face the challenges that lie ahead in the new role.

The support of the  Epsom and Ewell team, because  when I expressed my hesitation, they all said we’ll support and help you. Despite the fact they are dealing with a product that is for visually impaired people, it is very difficult for someone who is not visually  impaired to imagine all the help that is required and the little things that can go wrong. But they are all extremely open to being explained to about what is needed and I am getting wonderful support  so far. I also rely very much on my computer and the softwear I use which is called Guide, so that though I am not very good at websites, I can do the emails and read the minutes or have them read to me through the computer.

And we are all inspired by you, Judy. I  just know we will sally forth and you will do great things. What are your hopes and ambitions for the newspaper in this rapidly changing world and if I might ask, what are your fears, if indeed you have any, for the  future of this 42 year old newspaper.?

I feel that the talk of technology taking over is not strictly valid. I feel that all the expressions of losing the hard copy of newspapers also is not going to happen, certainly not within the next 10—15 years.  Particularly for us older visually impaired people who are not that easily accessible to the newspapers and all that’s on the websites. The Talking Newspaper is such a valuable thing and it will continue. It is improving all the time, the quality and the wonderful new people who come in to present it and I think keeping it lively, keeping it going, keeping it  in a way as it is now actually because I think it is a very wonderful service.  I don’t think technology will overcome it in the first few years now.

I’m sure all our listeners will be very heartened to hear that.

Now we heard a little about your family a little earlier and I believe it was your son Andrew who kindly created our new music that we are legally able to play as part of our weekly broadcast.

Yes, we were astonished to learn that you needed to have a license  for the original composer of the music and another for those who played the music –which is fair enough they need to be paid for . However, if that was to be broadcast, it was going to cost the Epsom and Ewell Talking Newspaper £143  a week. Then Andrew, who composes and has a hobby making music with the computer, said ‘Oh Mum I can do that for you’ so bless his heart he has come up with the music which is now played and I hope all you  listeners are happy with the product.

Indeed, we’ve have had some nice feedback and everyone is more than happy with the music. Tell me, now, Judy, how do you spend your leisure time and weekends relaxing — is it with family or your art?

How do I relax? I find that a difficult question. If you can’t see very well, the domestic side of life takes longer and that cuts into the time for other things. Simple jobs like ironing and preparing the vegetables and all the things you listeners are familiar with the difficulties of doing, do take a long time.

But other than that, my husband and I sail and I do have a qualification as a competent crew, o0n the other hand,  so long as a sighted person is present ! But I also walk and garden and I’m on the telephone a great deal to my friends.

Well I’d say that sounds pretty reasonable, absolutely lovely.

I was going to say by the way, going back to Andrew and the music he created for us –in the words of that old 1970’s  Abba song, we say to Andrew –Thank You For The Music.

And now Judy I’d like to say a huge thank you to you for chatting to us today and for sharing some of your thoughts and hopes for the future of the Epsom and Ewell Talking Newspaper.  I’d also like to thank Jo Piper for recording for us today.

So now it’s goodbye from Judy…..

Well thank you very much for the privilege of being here and goodbye and good luck to everybody.

It’s been a real pleasure chatting to you and so it’s goodbye from me everybody until next time –bye bye.