The radio team with the personal touch for patients
Tucked away in the grounds of Epsom District hospital is a music station that's gone from strength to strength.
Run by a band of caring volunteers, Radio EDH has cheered up hundreds of patients since it began eight years ago. Myra Beasley reports:
Members work as a close knit team, putting in long hours with ward visiting, fund-raising - and, some, presenting programmes.
Station controller, Nigel Ansell, whose wife Lesley is also a member of Radio EDH, understands how lonely and worrying a hospital stay can be.
"We like patients to think of the station as their constant friend and companion," said 29 year old Nigel. "Keeping them in touch with all that's going on in the community."
"At one time or another, nearly all of us have been a patient."
The message is clear - they aim for the personal touch. A dedication can lift a patient's spirits. They never know when they might hear their name on the air.
Nigel says they model their style on Radio 2, with a general music programme.
"Someone may be admitted on the Monday and gone by the end of the week, so we go for the general appeal."
Their record collection includes 200 albums and around 500 singles, with a scattering of old 78's. Most presenters also bring in their own.
Regular programmes include "Music from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s," "You And Me On Sunday" - country and western, recipes, gardening tips and a Sunday service from St Martin's, "Two's Company" - Nigel
Ansell plays music and includes a selecltion of children's jokes and listeners' letters.
"Friday Favourites" includes favourites from the last 30 years, while "Current to Classics" features light orchestral music and the more mellow modern sounds.
Aside from music, "Here, There and Everywhere" also looks at the mid-week sport, and "Christian Reflections" has a guest-of-the-week, thoughts, hymns and prayer.
But if you only want to present a show forget it. There's much more to it than that.
"The priorities are to serve the patients then the community stressed Nigel. Ward visiting and fundraising take up a lot of time and presenting the programme is really the 'icing on the cake."
In fact, anyone who joins the team is on three months probation. Such is the concern to keep up standards.
Trainind sessions are slotted in either early in the morning or late at night.
Broadcasting hours are 8pm-10 pm Monday to Friday, and 12 noon-8 pm Saturday and Sunday. So it's the only way.
What sort of people would they like to join the team?
"People with a sense of community spirit," said Nigel, thoughtfully. There's no room for people who want to be DJ's and nothing else.
"They should be atleast 18 and prepared to make a commitment.
"We ask them how many hours they're prepared to devote to the station, and about their hobbies and experience."
Radio broadcaster and former nurse, Vicky Warren was once a patient. That was how she became interested in Radio EDH.
Vicki has interviewed well-known actors and celebrities for the station, including Dempsey and Makepeace stars, Glynis Barber and Michael Brandon.
Then there was agony aunt, Marjorie Proops, television's action girl Anneka Rice and Mr and Mrs Osmond - parents of the famous '70s pop group, the Osmonds.
The wide spectrum of programmes includes music, sport, features, local news and Sunday services, and they have their own jingles package.
This includes star messages they play, mainly at Christmas, from well-known people like Harry Secombe, who was asked for a few words at a charity golf match, Leslie Crowther and Capital DJ Mike Allen.
Fund-raising is very important. The station's annual running costs are £1,000 - if they want to keep the service going and improve it.
The fruits of two years hard labour have raised £4,000 their target for a new portacabin. This means they can soon expand.
It is not easy operating from one cramped cabin.
But they still need a further £300 to equip the new portacabin, so their problems aren't over, by a long chalk.
"The second studio means we can improve the quality," said Nigel. "We will be able to produce more programmes and interview people both off and on the air
"Our record library can go in there, too and most importantly we can use it as a patient reception area.
They also envisage doing radio plays, if they can get enough members.
There are 20 at present - from 17 up to 65. Some broadcast and others are involved with administration, the technical side, ward visiting and fund-raising.
"Fund-raising has really taken off in the last two years," said Nigel, who also spends a lot of time with the inevitable paperwork.
"We introduced tombolas a couple of years ago and Christmas raffles three years ago which do very well."
Members put in long hours raising money and from May to September spend most weekends visiting fetes and fayes in the Epsom area, sometimes two in a day.
A regular feature is the Radio EDH public address system available for hire including presenters from their fun van, in addition to running competitions and tombola games.
The caravan, sponsored by Segas SE, is a familiar sight along with their mascot, Ruddles the bear, whom children adore.
The bi-annual treasure hunt, when participants spend a day driving here, there and everywhere, following a set of increasingly obscure clues - is another fundraising event.
It ends with a prize-giving celebration at a local pub.
Last summer, they held their first summer fayre, which was opened by actor Stratford Johns.
There's never an idle moment. Between summer fetes and the grand Christmas disco, they are busy selling tickets for the Christmas raffle and attending seasonal bazaars.
Said fund-raising officer, Nicki Jordan: "We try and encourage local residents to have a good old-fashioned "sing-a-long" at the bazaars, where we play carols and collect requests and messages to broadcast over the Christmas holiday.
"When the regular jumble sales are added to this already full programme of events and the few remaining hours are filled with ward visits and radio shows, it becomes clear just how important the fund-raising is to Radio EDH, to maintain and improve the service we give patients."
Said Nigel: "The long-term plans for Radio EDH are to be considered as a fund-raising organisation to the hospital and we would like to do more outside broadcasts, like carol concerts."
Nigel and a few of the main presenters can be seen and heard in the Ashley Centre some Thursday evenings. They provide the background music for late-night shoppers, twice a month.
They're aged 16-60
Talking to some of the volunteers, it is obvious they arc a dedicated bunch.
Said secretary Sue Jukes: "Our audience of patients are in hospital for various reasons, the majority to recover from various ailments or accidents, some for happier reasons, that be having a baby.
"Our job is make their stay as pleasant as possible and we begin by recruiting what we hope will be the right sort of people as members.
'No room here for people wanting to be just DJs'
"All Our members are expected to fund raise and all those connected with a show to ward visit that includes the main presenters and their assistants.
"We are not staffed entirely by DJs. Several of our members enjoy a role that involved only ward visiting or fund raising, or possibly both."
Retired BBC engineer, John Campion, 63, looks after the technical side and spends at least one day a week at the station. He's one of the oldest - and certainly keenest members.
"When I retired, I wanted to maintain an interest in broadcasting so I joined the station. What I most like is the contact people and I enjoy my duties," he said.
Hospital radio banks on good backing, too "Some of the equipment is quite old, some is ex-BBC. The oldest piece is a cartridge machine bought by the BBC 20 years ago."
From one of the oldest to one of the youngest members, 16-year-old Hugh Thomas, who joined last November.
"I wanted to do something for the community - I was in the cubs and the scouts, I enjoyed the training and like talking to patients in the wards."
"The first time I presented a programme was a nervewracking experience, even though another presenter sat in. I made a lot of mistakes!"
Programme controller, Trevor Leonard, 25, has been with the station four-and-a-half years.
"The biggest kick I get is if I do a good programme and find out its cheered someone up. One man who had a stroke and was very ill enjoyed a programme so much he wrote 'thank you' in one-inch tall letters."
"He hadn't done anything in six weeks."
If you are interested in joining Radio EDH, or would like to make a donation or sponsor the station write to Sue Jukes, Radio EDH, Dorking Road, Epsom, or telephone Epsom 29879.
'Thrill on the wards'
One patient, Eric Buntford, 64, said: "I was so pleased to receive a visit from one of the members of Radio EDH and was thrilled to hear my name mentioned and request played.
"It gives a real boost to know that you people, whom I've never met before, care."
And another, Betty Galway, had this to say about the station: "There are four of us in this section of the ward and we all enjoy spending the evening listening to the programme and each other's requests."
"You obviously understand how lonely and isolated people feel in here and it does so much to bring us all together".
Nigel Ansell with some of his dedicated team (left to right, standing) John Campion, Simon Osborne, Trevor Leonard, George Ford, Andrew Vaughan, Robin Bennett and Hugh Thomas.
(Left to right, sitting) Laura King, Lesley Ansell, Nicki Jordan and Sue Jukes... ward visits, shows and fund raising keep them busy, too.
Below Radio EDH secretary Sue Jukes deals with one of the stations many calls. There's a 24 hour answerphone to take messages when no one's there.
This cheque for £5,000 came from NatWest bank in Epsom towards the radio station's new portacabin. Nigel received it from bank clerks Penny Skinner (right) and Sesanne Pearce.
Trevor Leonard, programme controller, in the hot seat - his regular slot is Friday evening.