Search History Web Site:-

1988 Nahbo Members Magazine Article

Hospital Radio Heatherwood Promotion 1987

In November 1988 the following article was printed in the national association magazine


Continuing our series of articles taking an 'In-Depth' took at a hospital radio station Peter Davidson-Smith Reports:-

Medium wave “The Final Frontier”. These are the continuing stories of the Radio Ship Heatherwood, boldly going where others fear to tread, your Captain Dave Smith and Science Officer PJ with tales of the unknown!

Sorry Ed, got a bit carried away - apologies to all 'Trekkies'. This is the real world where people rip you off, steal your records, make false promises, turn the radio into a satellite of local IBA Radio, don't help with the fund raising, break your equipment, and don't know what a patient is. All this happened to us and more. Come with us as the story unfolds.........

David and I first joined RH in 1980, over 8 years ago, and like most newcomers to hospital radio, we were a bit green around the gills - but we have learnt a lot since those early days. Looking back with hindsight it is quite clear that our station was not very forward thinking and management had a lot to be desired, in fact one could almost say, what management? In short the station, although launched in 1976 with a lot of goodwill and ideas, was by 1980 on a downhill slide to the gutter and a financial drain on the League of Friends.

The main problem area was the lack of staff motivated enough, not only to make good suggestions, but to carry them out as well. We also had our fair share of ego trippers who were not portraying a very good image for the station - for one thing there were a lot of presenters who were not even going out on the wards to collect requests. We also had, in the early days, people who were systematically stealing all the valuable records from the library. We caught one presenter, after a lot of hard work, who had taken over 300 records'. We have had our share of these undesirables, and I guess we are not alone in this.

Radio Heatherwood had two small rooms, originally 12ft x 12ft in total, with the library surrounding the presenter. It was a cosy set up but everything was on a shoe string with no forward planning for equipment buying and promotion. It was during 1983 we gained another room 8ft x 12ft, giving us a 20ft square in total.

Back to Top

Prior to us taking over the management role in 1984, some bright spark said 'Let's have another studio', and proceeded to cut a hole in the wall for the door and a hole in the wall for a window and 'hey presto' we have another studio - YUK.

In all our brief history we have never had engineers, and when the second studio was finished they cut all the cables to the console put it in the the new room, and re-joined the cables with 13 amp connectors!

The early days of our management were fraught with endless problems in all fields; no engineers, no support from the community, the studio was in need of decoration and the radios in the wards were about to give up.

Our first step on the ladder to professional status and a service on the medium wave was to put some money into the bank account which was in the red. The inevitable fund raising had to be done, raffles, discos, sponsors etc. The early fund raising provided the money for the first alterations to the studios by way of a paint job, the original paint, which was white, had become a smoker's yellow. It is wonderful to have people who make excellent suggestions “Oh we could do with a paint job to brighten the place up”. Ask those same people to help and you don't see them for dust.

We openly sought support by local businesses offering advertising on raffle tickets and promotion posters. We arranged a sweatshirt logo and had shirts printed which presenters were encouraged to wear at all times. We are of the opinion that all presenters are ambassadors for RH at all times and are our sales desk.

If things were to improve we should visit other radios and NAHBO Regional conferences to get some fresh ideas. Our first visit was to a conference at Radio Gosh in Great Ormond Street. The conference was marginally helpful, but the tea break and visit to the studio gave us the most information and ideas.

Back to Top

It was after this visit in 1985 that we first wrote to Wireless Workshop for details of broadcasting on the Medium Wave and our plans for Heatherwood. On receipt of the reply it was quite obvious that this was a long way off, money wise, and the studio was a tip, a mish mash of bodge it and leave it, from a succession of bad planning and lack of management.

It was about 1985 that the main lOO volt line amp in the studio lost some more power transistors. We were losing these at the rate of 2 to 3 every nine months. We were in trouble this time round as the part time engineer who regularly came and replaced them had moved from the area, with no help from the hospital we decided to effect the repair ourselves.

It's at this point I would like to say that we are not advocating hospital radio stations should undertake repairs of hospital equipment, but at this time we were desperate and no one could help. This was our first link with electronics and this has continued to the present day for me, mainly because there hasn't been anyone else.

When the first paint job was finished, I re-wired the main studio where our Partridge mixer sat. I ditched all the dodgy connections for proper XLR's and Jacks. Studio 2 was kitted out with two SP25 turntables, one Alice mixer which was quite sick, plus one cassette deck for recording. These alterations didn't hide the fact that we were outgrowing our premises because the library was taking up so much area. We had over 1500 albums plus over 3500 singles, all stored on Dexion shelves or in metal cupboards.

A significant end to 1985 for us was our first ever Grand Draw to raise our running costs for the following year. Our local public house laid on a buffet for our Charity Night which was the showpiece of the final day of Grand Draw ticket selling.

The profit from the first draw was £969 and we were delighted. Every presenter was now engaged on the basis that if they wanted to be on RH they had to help raise the running costs, if not it's goodbye.

Back to Top

In 1985 we began to change our PA system as we had had some embarrassing moments in previous years at our fetes. Our friends at Kingston Radio also helped by providing a drawing for a line driver early in the year and this allowed us to broadcast the fete live to patients. I was suitably impressed with this and this was the first item I had put together in my new role as engineer for the station.

A general feeling by everyone concerned at the end of 1985 showed that RH was indeed destined for greater things. Interest outside the hospital was strong and our own League of Friend's were pleased that, for first time in years, the radio was taking more positive steps to self sufficiency.

A chance contact with a member of Windsor Lions in 1986 produced a cheque for £1,000 to re-build the library and second studio area. This was great news as this gave us the opportunity to really invest in the future.

We had continued our trips to other HBO's, an important visit for us was to the one at Kings in London where an Inductive Loop had just been completed and Alan Brown from Wireless Workshop gave a talk on the benefits of the Inductive Loop system.

In July 1986 the first provisional quote arrived from WW the cost £10,000 inc VAT -HELP! The combination of our visit to Kings and the subsequent quote from WW confirmed this was the only path left for us. In 1984 we conducted a survey of the faults on the bed head units, 18% or 45 units were affected by one or more faults. In 1986 this had increased to 277 faulty units. It was quite clear we were shortly not to have any listeners at all.

In September 1986 four presenters at HW started a complete week of building work, knocking down and building walls, putting in a suspended ceiling and continuing to broadcast in the evenings. We had all given up part of our annual holidays to spend time on the major part of the renovations which included rebuilding the library.

It was a chance glance at a local newspaper the following month which gave us the chance to obtain 66% of the total cost of installation of the Induction Loop System - by a capital grant from the local council. It was then a frantic 28 days to compile a 44 page document on the pluses and minuses, and why we should receive the money.

Back to Top


The appeal itself was centred around as much publicity as possible, plus our reputation the last four years. Our first donation came in February with a cheque for £1,000 from the local Baptist church.

When we applied to the local council for a grant we had to provide an alternative quote from another installation company. There is only one other and this was TD Communications. I won't go into too many details but, needless to say, I was not impressed with their response to my letter which was identical to the one sent to Wireless Workshop. When Tim Foulsham and Alan Brown arrived from WW to carry out a site visit my word to them were to be as competitive as you can be with your final quote as your rival has provided one almost £2,000 cheaper. The early quote in ' by WW listed twenty aerials and when the final quote came in it was for thirty, but the price had not increased that much - to £10,284.88p inc. VAT.

In the latter half of March our grant application was approved and we were to get £6,700 from Windsor council, and no strings We also received another cheque for £1,000 from a local trust fund at the same time, reset our fund raising target £18,000 from our first target £10,000 to enable us to purchase a quality mixer, renew equipment and rebuild the main studio.

The funds of the revised target were slow to materialise and this prompted us to approach the League of Friends to contribute £3,000 towards the target so that we could purchase a new mixer from Chilton. Our League were only two pleased to help with this project and bring it to its conclusion.

Back to Top

I would like to thank Tom Reps of Chilton at this point for his help. We had originally intended to purchase two mixers but one of our major supporters backed out of the project at the last minute (the idea being to have two studios with the same equipment). The cost of the mixer was £3,130 but I can honestly say that we would gladly purchase this at any cost simply because of the ease of use, quality, and the fact that it is a truly modular mixer offering excellent facilities. I have now probably upset a large proportion of those doubters about equipment costs (recent articles). I would just say we started with budget equipment, but their comes a lime when you cannot keep shelling out money on a short-terra basis. The advantage of the new mixer is that any module can be removed and sent away for repair as we don't have access to a qualified engineer who can repair any of the basics.

As November arrived the new mixer was collected and our broadcast frequency announced (999Khz/301M MW). Work on our new logo for our sweatshirts went ahead and we began preliminary work on plans to advertise the new service around the hospital. We completed a new-look poster which won't date and can be printed at any time.

The Wireless Workshop installation started on January 18th 1988 with Radio Heatherwood closing down for a complete studio rebuild also allowing WW total access to the studios without interference from any radio staff. The main installation for the transmission system was completed on the 8th February and the system was installed in a 19” racking system with a switching arrangement which could operate the transmitter and the 100 volt line amplifier at the same time. This was an additional cost but quite cheap and worthwhile.

On the Friday evening we arrived at the studio to express our thanks to Alan and Tim for their service. We had arrived just in time for the switchover from test tone to our holding station Radio 210. It was a marvellous feeling that night to know that through all our trials and tribulations we were able to pull off one of Radio Heatherwood's most ambitious projects which was going to give so much pleasure to the patients.

We purchased two cassette decks (Teac), plus four new sets of headphones (Beyer), a compact disc player (Technics) and also arranged for our Revox to have a full service. Two Technics turntables (SL 1200s) where taken from storage and installed in the studio. The studio was completed on March 1st.

A new sound was created for the station with the purchase of the Dave Longer middle-of-the-road style jingles from Dallas -adding that touch of professionalism.

The 'on air' date was finally set for Easter Saturday 2nd April and a small buffet was laid on with the mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor officiating, he council had, after all, provided 66% of the cost.

Back to Top

The station was launched at 2pm with Abba's 'Thank You For the Music', a record which says it all about hospital radio. The next two hours we broadcast a special programme recorded during the training period which looked back at the brief history of the station with archive material and music.

If we have learned anything during the last eight years, it has got to be; Money doesn't come easy; don't rely on promises; watch out for cowboys; dismiss all record thieves and disco fanatics and don't allow your station to be ripped off by suppliers. Also pay great attention to the promotion and engineering aspects of your station.

If anyone asks the question 'Should we change to the Medium Wave?' - the answer has got to be YES, come and see for yourselves.

The 100 volt line system is a dead duck as far as present hospital maintenance policy is concerned, look to the future for the answer not the past.


We now have staff who are dedicated to providing the service for which hospital radio is all about, and are also not afraid to chip in with the running of the station. I, for my sins, have taken over all the electrical problems in the studio.
We now have a public relations man who will, in time, become secretary and we have one member who is responsible for training.


Our immediate plans are to raise money to computerize our library, then try and raise enough funds to purchase another Chilton for our second studio so that we can record programmes on tape to increase broadcast limes.
We also plan to invite community groups to come and support the service and the long term future will bring a change in either the size of our premises, or a move to a larger building.


This article is dedicated to all those who have helped us through the years. Our friends at Kingston Hospital Radio, Wireless Workshop, Chilton (Tom Reps), T Shirt Productions, the Stag Public House, all our sponsors, and especially our own presenters who have stuck with us.

Radio Heatherwood on 999Khz and Channel 3 - the story continues.

Dave Smith (Manager)

P.J. Davidson-Smith (Engineer and Project Manager)

AM Year Story Unfolds

1988 was a very busy year for the station management and as the year unfolded there was much to do and organise

For further information about this year:- Follow the links

Back to Top

Archive Gems

Just some extra's we found:-

1988 The Story Continues:-

Back to Top