Who we are
Board of Trustees
Alan Cook ACIB
Alan Cook has always claimed "he went to Oxford" - and that's true if you accept that he was born there! He then lived in Wallingford before Tadworth, Cheltenham and Haywards Heath, schooling at Ardingly College before joining Lloyds Bank in 1975.
Married to Jennifer in 1981, they set up home in Ashford Kent, then Crawley Down near Turners Hill before moving to Hailsham in 1987 with their two young daughters.
He stayed with Lloyds for 42 years, moving to offices across the south east through Kent, Surrey and Sussex, with his final responsibility as the Area Director for Commercial Banking along the Sussex Coast.
Retiring in 2017, his interests now include coordinating the audio description service at Eastbourne's Devonshire Park Theatre for VI patrons, volunteering at the National Trust's Sheffield Park Gardens as a tour guide, and driving for the Polegate East Sussex Vision Support Group.
Outside these, Alan enjoys gardening with two allotments, caravanning, golfing, Formula 1 motorsport (as a spectator !) badminton and now four grandchildren.
Susan Dix FCA
Susan is a lifetime fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. She started work as an articled clerk in practice and undertook a wide range of audits from small local businesses to a global insurance company and quoted UK multinational groups. She prepared the inaugural set of accounts for the Alzheimer’s Disease Society (the accounting records came in a shoe box!) now, many years later and renamed the Alzheimer’s Society, a large and well-respected charity carrying out very important work. Soon after qualification she decided life as an auditor was not for her and so moved into industry, joining Marley plc from KPMG. During a varied career that spanned more than 30 years she enjoyed working with colleagues of many nationalities and also relished the challenges of implementing computer systems, group accounting packages and managing outsourced services. Understanding the detailed requirements of regulatory and tax authorities in many countries around the world was both very interesting and, at times, frustrating. However, Susan soon learned that a good sense of humour, careful separation of the ‘must-have’ from the ‘nice-to-have’ can provide a productive environment where everyone in the team contributes to a successful outcome.
Susan juggled long hours at work, including many overseas trips, with a part-time role as a carer for her parents so she is very aware of the great benefit to both the patient and the carer that a well-targeted charitable assistance can provide. She applauds the work that WTN does in keeping blind and partially-sighted people in contact with local events and news.
In her retirement Susan began playing bridge and also enjoys gardening, walking and keeping fit.
Magazine editor, presenter and producer
Richard joined what was then called Heathfield and District Talking Newspaper Association in 1987 and has been producing and recording a talking magazine (Richard's Roundup) since August 1989.
Richard has been totally blind from birth. He ran his own business tuning and repairing pianos from August 1971 until March 2018. At that point he left Crowborough and retired to Aberdeen to be with Amanda who is now his wife. Richard comes down regularly to look after a few long-standing clients and, when possible, attend trustees meetings. (These are recorded which enables him to compile minutes each time.) He has been Chairman of the Association of Blind Piano Tuners since April 1997.
He is also volunteer for RNIB Scotland and am PVG (People in Vulnerable Groups) checked. This is the Scottish equivalent of DBS
Heather Halit Vice-Chairman and Editing supervisor
Heather went into retail banking following university and lived and worked (managing the general office of a branch) in West London until her husband was seconded to the Middle East in 1992, where she had two children and was involved with two of the local animal welfare charities. The family came back to the UK and her husband continued to travel for business so when they moved to Sussex she studied diet and nutrition and set up a business from home making ‘free from’ treats, her main area of expertise being gluten free diets and sugar substitutes.
Heather grew up with Talking Newspapers in the background as her Mum read for a TN for many years, so once her youngest son went to school it was natural for her to join WTN as an editor and reader. She became a trustee in 2016 and is now responsible for the editing teams and more recently took over the day to day book-keeping for the charity.
Heather is keen to produce as good a product as possible for the listeners and is very proud to have been part of the team that kept WTN and SWP running during the lockdowns.
She is married with two grown up sons and lots of dogs and cats, in her spare time she is the book-keeper for Friends of Sussex Hospices, loves crafts (especially sugarcraft) and is an avid reader.
Mike Hollis (Technical manager)
Mike grew up in London in the 1960’s where the new emerging music scene captured his interest and led him to a lifelong interest in music and the recording industry. With no connections to enable him to progress a career in this field, Mike moved to his second love of photography and worked for 30 years as a professional technician. When the digital camera revolution brought the demise of the photographic industry, Mike took the opportunity to move to Sussex where he was able to work for the Talking News Association UK, reverting to his chosen career path and giving him the opportunity to extend his already extensive knowledge of recording.
Aware that a local charity, Wealden Talking News, needed recording engineers Mike became a volunteer and soon became a trustee and Technical Manager. With the help of a lottery grant, Mike oversaw the upgrading of the studio, installing state-of–the art equipment. Mike is currently responsible for in-house training of recording engineers and running workshops to constantly enhance skills and techniques.
Dianne Steele RGN, SCM, DN, MBChA
Secretary & Studio Manager
Dianne qualified as a State Registered Nurse in 1968 and continued her education to qualify as a midwife in 1970 before choosing to specialise in the Operating Theatre (Cardio-Thoracic) at Kings College Hospital, South London. In 1972 she married and moved to East Sussex where she became the District Nurse/ Midwife for Hawkhurst on the Sussex/Kent border.
In 1974 Dianne had a daughter after which she qualified as a Podiatrist and embarked on a 40 year career in the private sector.
Dianne has always contributed to community service - initially through the Heathfield & District Lions Club. She became the Medical Loan Officer for the Heathfield Branch of the British Red Cross in 1991 and in 1995 became a volunteer reader for Wealden Talking News – now serving as a Trustee, Secretary and Studio Manager. She has been an fundraising committee member of the Friends of Sussex Hospices since 2009, becoming a trustee in 2015. Whilst working for this charity, Dianne developed a keen interest in web and graphic design and currently works as the web master, brand manager and designer of fundraising literature, programmes etc.
Dianne has had a life-long love of opera and has served as an usher at Glyndebourne Opera House since 1994. Other interests include skiing, Scottish dancing, needlepoint, and bridge.
Blind awareness consultant
Amanda Burt was born and brought up in Aberdeen. She was appointed a Trustee in 2016 and serves as the Blind Awareness Consultant. Amanda is married to fellow trustee, Richard Foster. Amanda advises the board on all aspects of digital technology for the sight impaired and blind.
Amanda has a life-time experience of volunatry work particularly with RNIB and Poverty Alliance - Scotland’s anti-poverty network bringing together campaigners and communities to rebalance the distribution of power and resources. She is also a volunteer and advisor for the Scottish Human Rights Commission.
Amanda really enjoys her work as a trustee. She is in a unique position to understand the problems and requirements of the severly visually impaired when using computers and other technical devices that offer communication.
Lilla Heaslip MBE
(Partial sight adviser)
Lilla has been involved with social welfare charities both in the UK and abroad in various roles. Moving to Burwash in 1971 she chaired the newly-formed group of Action Research for the Crippled Child for several years until moving to Indonesia where she helped at the Cheshire Home in Jakarta.
On her arrival in Ethiopia in 1991, she joined the board of what is now Cheshire Ethiopia (established by Leonard Cheshire in 1962) serving as fundraiser until she left Ethiopia in 2016 and including a four-year tenure as chair. Lilla was awarded an MBE for Services to the Community specifically Children with Disability in Ethiopia, and she is still involved today.
Lilla's strength was a linguistics. having studied French, German and Russian with a smattering of Swahili and Bahasa Indonesian thrown in.
Lilla has the ability to interact with people and broad cross-cultural experience having lived and worked with UNESCO and WHO in Tanzania and with the Japanese and the British Council for 15 years in Ethiopia. She was Head of Evening classes at Sandford International School and Local Secretary for Cambridge Exams.
Lilla was diagnosed with chronic glaucoma in 2009 and became a trustee of WTN in 2018. She enjoys walking, travelling, opera and music, playing Bridge, reading on Kindle, and listening to Talking Books.
Lilla has three daughters and five grandchildren ranging in age from 22 to 6.