Tune in 24 hours

LYING in a hospital bed waiting to get better can be a pretty lonely business. But tuning into hospital radio can provide a lifeline. Today feature writer JAMES MARSTON finds out changes are afoot to turn Hospital Radio Ipswich on 24 hours a day.

LYING in a hospital bed waiting to get better can be a pretty lonely business. But tuning into hospital radio can provide a lifeline. Today feature writer JAMES MARSTON finds out changes are afoot to turn Hospital Radio Ipswich on 24 hours a day.

YOU'D never find it without directions.

Hidden through a car park, round a corner, and down an alley way in the oldest part of the hospital not far from the laundry is the home of a group of volunteers dedicated to making the life of patients a little bit more bearable.

Hospital Radio Ipswich is a free service offered to patients to provide a diversion and even some company during a spell under the care of the NHS -and quite often it's a lifeline from the ward to the outside world.

Chairman Diana Morphew-Hull said: “People can be lonely when they are in hospital and a lot like to make a request of a song that brings back happier memories. We are here to play patients' requests and provide a little bit of companionship. The radio is the bedside friend.”

The station at the hospital in Heath Road is today preparing for a big change. After Christmas the station which has broadcast to patients for 35 years, is going to provide a 24-hour service across the airwaves.

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Diana said: “At the moment we don't broadcast all day long, and we share the channel with BBC Radio Suffolk. There will be two channels to choose from when we go 24 hours.”

Offering children's radio, patient and visitor request shows, the station is a lively place.

Diana said: “We want to go 24 hours. People often don't sleep well in a hospital and the radio can be a comfort when the visitors have left and your on your own.”

Pictures of Elvis and Frank Sinatra grace the walls, volunteers make a cup of coffee and in the studio the 'on air' light clicks on and off. The library is stocked with an impressive collection of 70,000 tracks, and this is where requests are found and prepared for broadcast.

Diana said: “We go out to the wards and get requests. Going out and chatting to the patients is what it's all about really. We play whatever they want.”

The station's treasurer Mike Bugg, of Montana Road, Kesgrave, pops his head round the door, and says how much the radio can help people's recovery.

He said: “We've had a number of incidents where people have come out of comas or from being under anaesthetic and what they heard over the radio stays with them. They often want to know at what time we were playing a particular track.”

As the requests for the evening mount up, Mike, a retired accountant, explains what he gets out of giving up his time to entertain others.

He said: “I've always been into music and since I've been doing this I've learned no end about music and bands. I'm no frustrated DJ and I didn't really intend to do presenting but I get a lot of pleasure from doing it.”

In the studio Graham Lowe - Diana's husband who she met at the station - is presenting the evening show. He said: “There's a lot of satisfaction in doing this.”

A magnet for those interested in radio, the station attracts a number of volunteers keen to learn the ropes.

Ben Gallagher, 21, of Earl Stonham has been volunteering for three weeks. He said: “I'm a general volunteer to start with. I'd like to get into radio producing and this has given me a good way of getting to know about radio and how it works. It's relaxed here and there are no deadlines so it's not like a workplace. I'm really enjoying it.”

Tom Hazelwood, 16, of Sunningdale Drive, Felixstowe, is in year 11 at Deben High School.

He said: “I'd like a job in the media or in radio and this was recommended to me by a friend. I've been here about four weeks and I'm training and learning about the station.

“I haven't done any presenting yet but its good fun and I've learnt lots already. It is interesting to be part of what is going on here.”

But it's the patients that are the station's real focus. Diana takes me on the quarter of a mile walk, to the wards where the station brightens up the lives of the patients.

Jeanette Taylor, of Capel St Mary, was recovering from an operation. She chose the Robbie Williams song Angels to thank the nurses looking after her. She said: “I've not heard the hospital radio yet but I'm going to be here for a while so I expect I shall. I think it is an excellent service the nurses here have been wonderful and I want to thank them with something ballady.

“It's good to be able to choose something that will give others pleasure.”

Diana speaks to John Alborough who is visiting his mother Gladys, as he walks through the corridor.

He chose “anything by Claus Vanderlide” - a musician I admit I'd never heard of.

He added: “I know its something Mum would like to hear.”

As we get back to the station, another lengthy walk through the hospital's corridors, the requests are coming in thick and fast.

Diana said: “We always manage to play every request. We keep records of the wards we visit so we know who asked for what and when. Hospital radio is really for the patients. Getting out to the wards, having a chat and cheering people up, are what it's all about.

“We are here to play patients' requests and provide a little bit of companionship. It is the bedside friend.”

Hospital Radio Ipswich is always looking for volunteers and donations. It is also looking to secure sponsorship. Diana said: “We are self-funded, so we do discos and we rely on donations, and we all pay a membership fee of £10.”

The station has volunteers from the age of 16 to 84, and everyone is welcome.

If you would like more information call 01473 704666.

What do you think of hospital radio? Has it helped you get better? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk



Frank Sinatra, Jim Reeves, Daniel O´Donnell, Robbie Williams, Vera Lynn are among the most requested artists.

The Tiger Club for Children´s Ward listeners, broadcasts Tuesday and Thursday nights 6pm to 7.30pm.

The longest running show is football commentary from Portman Road. Since 1971, every major Ipswich Town home game has been broadcast live by a dedicated commentary team.

Hospital radio is available free through the Patientline terminal installed above each bed in the Hospital.

There is a radio link from the Hospital Chapel so patients can listen to a Sunday service.

A voluntary organisation which is financially independent, formed on October 4, 1971.

Initially programmes were only broadcast to patients at the Anglesea Road Hospital.

There was no studio, and equipment was stored in a cupboard during the day. Every evening people spread the equipment and records across vacant desks in one of the administration offices.

Having shown they could provide a worthwhile service, HRI graduated to its first proper studio - in the main boiler room at Anglesea Road.

HRI moved to its current studio complex, shortly after the new Heath Road Hospital was built. The initial funding was provided by the Ipswich Lions.

Studio A, as it was known, was officially opened on January 20, 1974.

The studio was later completely refurbished at a cost of around £7,000 and reopened on March 23, 1994.

During 2004 and 2005, the studios were again updated. The station's accommodation also comprises a record library, meeting room, engineering and storage rooms.

HRI has had 80 to 110 volunteers.

It now broadcasts to the Ipswich Hospital complex, St Clements Hospital and St Elizabeth's Hospice. Programmes are broadcast every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.