Colchester: Hospital radio still in tune with patients after 50 years

Volunteesr at Colchester Hospital Radio. Back L-R: Andy Patrick, Bob Miller, Rusel Broadway, Rebecca

Volunteesr at Colchester Hospital Radio. Back L-R: Andy Patrick, Bob Miller, Rusel Broadway, Rebecca Beady with Andy Thompson at the controls. - Credit: Archant

Despite all the distractions available to modern patients, Colchester General Hospital’s radio station remains the most popular port of call when patients want some entertainment.

It is a statistic its volunteer disc jockeys are extremely proud of as they prepare to celebrate the station’s 50th anniversary later this year.

“Our popularity is down to to the fact that we are always focused on what patients want,” said station manager Andy Patrick, who has given up his spare time to help out on a weekly basis since 1986.

“We go out on the wards every day and ask patients for requests, and also play songs with dedications to patients that family and friends have e-mailed in.

“The requests are wide and varied – one minute we might be playing a top 10 hit, the next it could be a song from the 1940s or a piece of classical music. The variety is why people like the station so much.”

Mr Patrick says his satisfaction comes from seeing patients smile when he goes round to visit them because they love talking about music.

“Some are quite sick and while it won’t make them better, it cheers them up for a while,” he added.

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A computer manager with Hewlett Packard by day, Mr Patrick is one of 40 volunteers who enable the station to broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to hundreds of listeners. Most of the live shows go out in the evening when volunteers are on hand while daytime broadcasts tend to be pre-recorded.

The station has seen many changes since it first hit the hospital airwaves in December 1963. It has only been housed within the hospital building on Turner Road for the past five years –before that it had residences at the Odeon cinema on Crouch Street and Colchester United’s old football ground at Layer Road.

The technology has also altered. Mr Patrick started out playing vinyl records before moving onto CDs, while today most of the music is computer-based.

“Today, patients have TV and a choice of radio stations as well as their own devices and we are still the most popular. We must be doing something right,” he added.

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