Southend Hospital Radio – making airwaves for 40 years
23 August 2017
It all began at 11am on Saturday 5 February 1977 with the very first request, ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ by Stevie Wonder. Forty years on, Southend Hospital Radio continues to provide its unique, and free, music and entertainment for patients on the wards.
The idea of a Hospital Radio service came from a former patient,
Betti Thompson, who together with family and friends, prepared a
discussion paper which they put to the NHS District Management
Four decades later, the station is still going strong.
Broadcasting from two studios at the rear of the Tower Block, the
radio station provides two 24-hour services: an easy-listening
music service and the main service which is a mix of live shows,
recorded highlights, features and most requested songs.
A key part of the service is ward liaison. Each weekday evening,
a team of volunteers visits the wards, chats to the patients and
then plays their favourite songs on the request show. The station
has over 20,000 tracks available on its computer system and an
extensive CD library, meaning that just about every musical taste
can be catered for.
Stuart Kelly, 60, from Southchurch, has been a regular patient
on Rochford Ward for the last ten years and is a huge fan of the
station. He said: "It's a real lifeline and the presenters become
like friends over the airwaves. They are very professional and they
really lift your spirits, I'm always making requests and if I can't
sleep at night then I'll listen to Southend Hospital Radio, I find
it very calming."
As the station's Programme Controller Joe Smith explained,
programme content is something that's taken very seriously: "We
hope that patients find something within our schedule to help make
their stay in the hospital a little brighter and maybe while away
an hour or two. Our dedicated team of presenters and ward liaison
volunteers come from all walks of life; many of us work full-time
or part-time in the radio industry and all of us have a real
passion for doing our best to make the listeners smile."
The radio station has seen many changes over the last 40 years,
including a move from vinyl and tape to computer playout systems
that allow presenters instant access to songs and jingles. Patients
can now even text their song requests direct to the studio by
texting 07733 255 299 (standard network rate) and listen to the
request show on weekday evenings from 8pm -10pm.
One of those presenters is Alice Ryan, who has been part of
Southend Hospital Radio for seven years. She said: "At Southend
Hospital Radio it is an absolute pleasure to meet new people each
week and make their stay here a little easier. I love the range of
music that we are able to play for them. It's a delight to be part
of such a lovely team."
Pete Sipple, the station's Chairman, says that service is only
possible thanks to the hard work of its dedicated team of
volunteers who help out on-air or behind the scenes. He said: "Our
team of volunteers works hard to be an on-air friend at the
patient's bedside as we know that no-one want to stay in hospital
and, for some, it can be a lonely and scary experience. We're proud
to have been offering our service for the last 40 years and hope we
can continue to entertain and inform visitors to the hospital for
years to come."
Southend Hospital Radio is a registered charity and the team
raises funds by arranging sponsored events and providing
entertainment at public events such as the Foulness Cycle Ride and
the Rayleigh Fireworks evening.
The station also offers exclusive live commentary from Southend
United home games and each weekday lunchtime it broadcasts an NHS
Choices 'healthy living' programme.