This year I celebrated my ninth anniversary at Sunshine Hospital Radio. Due to our studio refurbishment we have not had any live shows since last March, but the end is in sight, and we will soon be back in a modern studio that is finally equipped to deal with our needs. Many of you know how passionate I am about hospital radio, and how much I love what I do!
I thought I thought I would look back on how I got involved with Sunshine, some memorable moments, and what the future holds for us.
I joined Sunshine Radio in March 2008. I had finished University the July before, and had just got my first job as a journalist. I had wanted to join the station earlier, but I was working shifts in a petrol station while I looked for a job, and so couldn’t commit one specific evening a week. So when I started my new job, and had my evenings back I was quick to fill out the form. I have always been interested in radio, and as those of you who know me will agree I am pretty talkative! So volunteering at a hospital radio station seemed a great idea, and also the chance to meet new people and learn new skills.
Weston Hospital in particular appealed to me as it has a connection with my Granddad When I was little he had his own building company, and worked on a number of projects in the area. Weston used to have three hospitals, and in the 1980’s it was decided to build one hospital and bring them all together under one roof. My Granddad was the site manager on the project, and oversaw the building of the hospital in Uphill. A lot of changes have taken place there since he worked on the original building, but I love the fact that he was responsible for the place where I volunteer. If he was alive today he would be straight on my show, Talk of the Town, to talk about the construction of the hospital! Weston Hospital was also where he was treated before he died, and so I feel that by volunteering on Sunshine I am close to him.
The moment I walked through the doors of the studio I felt right at home. The volunteers were lovely, and I was fascinated by the recording equipment. This marked the start of my 12 week probation period. During this time I was shown how to take requests from patients, find them on the system, and then play them on the wardround request show, which is on between 8 and 9 every weekday night. Talking to patients and asking them for song requests is just so lovely. You meet some wonderful people, with some very interesting stories to tell. Having a song played, or simply just talking to them can mean the world to patients. You could be the only visitor they see, and chatting to you can really lift their spirits at what is a difficult and often frightening time. Over the years I have met many lovely people – too many to list them all here. I will never forget the lady in her 80’s who asked me to play ‘You’re the First, the Last, My Everything’ by Barry White as it reminded her of her husband who died two months before. The following week I returned to the ward to find she had sadly died, and the nurse said she had such a big smile on her face when we played the song. I like to think she is with her husband, who she said was her first and only love. I also remember the old man in his 90’s who requested ‘some of that modern dance music stuff’ as it made him laugh, the lady who named her newborn baby Adele as when she was trying to decide on a name she listened to Sunshine and we were playing Adele, and the old man who asked me to play ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ and then sang it to me at full volume. Being able to spread a little joy and cheer to patients is what Sunshine Radio is all about!
In 2010 I took the next step forward and took on my own show. At Sunshine members are able to do shows that reflect their interests and hobbies. I am interested in news, and what is going on around me, so this inspired me to create a news show every Monday from 7 – 8. Talk of the Town was born. Since the first show I have had many guests in talking about events in Weston, including the mayor, MP John Penrose, representatives from different charities, and local musicians. I like giving local people and groups a voice, and the opportunity to talk about things that are important to them. There have been too many to pick a favourite, but a special mention has to go to The Wrinkly Wrappers, Weston’s own rap group made up of women in their 70’s. They were great to interview, and every recorded a new jingle for the station! They gave me the nickname of Laura Shizzle Dizzle Tremelling, and let me rap for some of their songs! For this show I also go out and about recording pieces, including interviewing the witch of Wookey Hole Caves (where I tried….and failed…to cackle), had a tour of the Grand Pier when it was being built, watching Sooty turn on Weston’s Christmas lights, dancing behind a Chinese dragon at the Your North Somerset cultural event, and going round and round on the Weston Eye!
This same year I became fundraising officer for the station. As a charity we receive no funding, and so we need to raise money ourselves to pay for licences and equipment updates. This is a challenge I readily take on, and I can often be found badgering members to take part in bag packs, and cake sales! My experience as fundraising officer has enabled me to do two things that were on my bucket list – a sky dive and an abseil. The sky dive was fantastic! Though Mike (who I roped in to do it with me) may not agree! The feeling of jumping out of a plane at 12,000ft was incredible, and I enjoyed every minute of it! However the same cannot be said about the abseil! I was the first one down (as the organiser I had to show willing!) and stepping backwards over the cliff was terrifying! I also lost my footing halfway down and ended up spinning round and round. Don’t worry though, when I eventually reached the bottom a lovely thorn bush broke my fall!
Through Sunshine Radio I have also been lucky enough to cover T4 on the Beach, and got to interview all the bands backstage!
This was the day where I met Peter Andre! I cannot begin to describe how amazing this was! I have been a fan since I was 9, and my obsession with him has been well documented on my show.
During my time at Sunshine I am proud to have been awarded both the Jill Dando award and the Karen Radford Award. The Jill Dando award is for the best show contribution. It is named after television presenter Jill who used to volunteer with Sunshine before her TV career took off. The Karen Radford Award is for best all round member. It is in memory of Karen, a volunteer who sadly lost her life in a car accident. To have won both of these awards is great.
In 2013 I was honoured and absolutely astounded to win Gold at the National Hospital Radio Awards in the Female Presenter of the Year category. For those of you that are not aware of the Hospital Radio Awards, they are an annual celebration of the excellent standards found in hospital radio stations across the country. There are more than 200 individual member stations, and each entry is subjected to a rigorous judging process by a national panel of industry experts and NHS staff.
I love my show, and what I do, and to win this award was the icing on the cake. Our run of good luck in these awards continued, when in 2014 we were awarded Silver in the Speech Package category for our piece on the Weston Helicopter Museum, and in 2016 we won Bronze in the Speech Package category for our piece on the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity.
These award ceremonies give people the chance to celebrate the achievements of hospital radio volunteers across the country. Some people feel that hospital radio is not that great – is just a bunch of people talking rubbish into a microphone pretending they are DJs. This could not be further from the truth. It is so worthwhile, and has been proven to cheer patients up. For our wardround request show we visit patients on the wards and ask them what songs they would like to hear. You could be the only visitor a patient gets, and a five minute chat with you can really brighten their day. So can the fact that they get to request a song that can have great memories for them, and then share it with everyone else in the hospital. I remember a few years ago when I was in the canteen about half an hour before my show, Talk of the Town, next to a group of elderly men in wheelchairs. One man asked another if there was anything on television or radio that would cheer him up tonight. The man replied ‘Talk of the Town by that Laura is on Sunshine Radio tonight. She is absolutely crazy, but makes me laugh!” His words have stuck in my mind to this day, as this is the reason I give up my time to do what I do. If I can make just one person smile then I have done my job. The most important thing for Hospital Radio is the patients. The awards are a little extra thing, and a way to thank and praise these volunteers.
I have loved every minute of being a member of Sunshine Hospital radio, and have made many good friends. Joining the station nine years ago was one of the best things I have ever done, and I look forward to many more enjoyable years as a member!