Hereford Clocks Up 40 Years with On Air Magazine

George Burton 1992It was during a hospital stay in 1972 that a young 20-year-old Dave Heggie asked questions of the then hospital administration as to why the tubes on his bedside didn’t have any music playing. It seems that the hospital had paid for the investment in the wards but didn’t have any equipment.

Therefore, a young Dave approached the local Lions Club and Roy Romerill at the Herefordshire County Youth Service, and Hospital Radio started.

Over the years, the service has extended to local hospitals in Leominster and Ross-on-Wye and to a number of old people’s homes via a BT landline. The Lions continued to be actively involved during the 1980s and provided the landline, the commentary box and the commentators at Edgar Street, where local side Hereford United play. It was during this time that an unknown George and Myra Burton joined HHR and, despite spedning most of their time in Hereford, found the time to become actively involved in NAHBO (the Hospital Broadcast Association’s former name).

CMH with Ron WilliamsGeorge and Myra became well known around the UK, where they visited many stations and became the figureheads of hospital radio. I only joined hospital radio in 1991, after my Nana stayed in Hereford and I thought my love of music together with my knack of burning my skin with my soldering iron might come in handy! Some of you who know that smell!

My first trip to the studios found me underneath a Partridge desk within an hour and a few hours later, Studio 2 was back up and running. Since that time, we have managed to obtain over £35k in funding and have replaced the studios and upgraded to make our service more reliable and
easier to use.

Over the last 40 years, Hospital Radio in Hereford has continued to grow although the audio lines to Leominster and Ross and the old people’s homes have gone due to the increase in BT charges. However, it has an active membership and works with many organisations throughout the county to help it raise money to stay on air and entertain patients at the County Hospital.

For the last three years, thanks to some help from the Hereford Lions Club – www.herefordlions.com – the station has broadcast on the internet, allowing patients who are awaiting surgery to continue listening in via their internet radio, iPhone or computer.

Just over two years ago, thanks to On Air, we acquired the old Outside Broadcast caravan from Hospital Radio and we have had it sealed and resprayed and it is now our OB unit that we take to many local outdoor events. About a year ago, I sat at my kitchen table and completed an application for the National Lottery; this was our first application and if I’m honest, it only took 45 minutes but within eight weeks, £10k was in our account and we spent this money with the guys at Vortex for some Comrex Access Hardware. I have to suggest if you are thinking of the Comrex solution, take advantage of their ‘have an OB on us deal’. They will supply the hardware and Sim card for you to try. It was a lot of money to bid for so you need to make sure it does what it says on the tin! Last October, our award was mentioned during the Saturday Night Lottery Show (link is on our website). We have used this many times over the year and managed to get the local ‘Three’ store to donate a year’s data SIM card, for a small sponsored message when we do our outside broadcasts.

Studio 1 - On Air 142

It is right for me to mention Kidderminster Hospital Radio at this point, as for many years prior to my arrival in Hereford as engineer, an Andy Page from KHR was encouraged by George (he had a knack of that) to help out in 1992 in fixing the HHR studios.

It was soon after my first NAHBO conference in Northampton when George introduced me to the team from KHR, that Hereford and Kidderminster started to share some of their equipment to broaden the programming to its own patients. It also helped that I was Chairman of Hereford, and was courting their Chairman! Those were great times!

Some of you may not be aware that Kidderminster HR over the last couple of years has struggled in getting itself back on air, due to changes in healthcare in North Worcestershire and in 2012, the station closed. However, there is some good news. Hereford was offered by the trustees of KHR the assets of the station and we have now merged these with our own and I’m pleased to say that KHR continues to help patients at our hospital. We have a number of items that we are looking to sell, so if you would like to make a bid please let me know, at chris.hughes@hhr.org.uk.

Items include a Sonifex S1 Desk, a Denon CD and some Mini Disc Players mounted in wooden pods together with a number of Technics 1210s decks and many other items.

HHR at wyevaleOver the first weekend in December 2012, we celebrated our 40 years by holding a non-stop 40 hour broadcast. Our first hour was actually a simicast with the local BBC Station Hereford & Worcester. We used the Comrex Access hardware to link our studios and publicised our work and even played requests for our patients at the County Hospital. The local papers helped us get in touch with former members who came to the studios on the Saturday. We were very pleased to receive congratulations from Graham Burton, George and Myra’s son, and delighted that Dave Heggie, one of our founders, joined us at the studios and participated in our broadcast. I have to thank John Myers who joined us via telephone during the day. He shared his thoughts with us on the past of Hospital Radio and where it will be in the future. This has given the team in Hereford a great boost to the work we do.

Thanks Team!

One final note, in the 2013 Wye Valley NHS Trust Annual Report, our work was recognised and we had a small article about our work and a photo of some of our presenters in the studios. We know that our work at the hospital is valued and this recognition formally helps us to open doors.

Hereford Hospital Radio is in a great place and I’m proud and privileged to be their Chairman. Looking towards the future, the Trust directors are asking us to deploy Barix decoders at other Hospital Trust locations so they can listen to our output. They are, of course, fully  responsible for any PPL/PRS fees that maybe required.
Chris Hughes, Chairman.

Download a copy here On Air Issue 142

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