If I’m honest, the idea that I could be a broadcaster never entered my head when the careers adviser at school did the quiz with me. I was due to be an auctioneer. The downside was having one of the most limited interests in antiques – how many people really win Bargain Hunt anyway? But perhaps standing behind a mic and presenting to others was always going to be in my blood.
As a child I’d done that thing of recording my voice and playing some cheesy songs in between onto a cassette machine (that makes me feel old!). It was that stereotypical thing of trying to raise my voice enough that you couldn’t hear my dad bellowing in the background to go to bed or come and watch Last of the Summer Wine.
It was a magical moment but short-lived. The cassette player wasn’t my own property though and I seem to remember it eventually died a death when the tape decided it wanted to see the depths of the machine. Destination rubbish bin.
Skip forward to college and a chance to experience a real radio studio. I found friendship and confidence in essentially pratting around in there in my spare time. I enjoyed the mic work, being able to express myself whether as myself or as characters/caricatures, but had no idea what all the technical aspects were. Whilst taking part in one of my other hobbies I was introduced to hospital radio in Oxford, Radio Cherwell. I had never heard of it and no idea what I was letting myself in for when I just went to ‘visit’.
My first night consisted of a quick tour of the building and then answering the phones for one of their longest-running programmes. The pressure. Would I even remember how to answer a phone? It was literally a few weeks later when I was wandering the hospital wards with the station’s chairman, talking to patients, listening to them, and that evening I went on air without warning and felt like I was probably letting the side down. I’ve still got a recording of my catastrophic first attempt at introducing some song requests.
I still remember one of the patients of that evening. An elderly gent who had spent years in and out of hospital and would continue to do so but was making plans to marry his new lady friend. Over the coming years he would become a regular and recognisable voice as I moved from telephone answer man to co-presenter. It was then that I realised how crucial hospital radio really was. The delight that you can put a smile on someone’s face just by talking to them over the air waves, playing their song, or delivering some prizes from a competition you ran is great.
I’ve been with Radio Cherwell for more than a decade, and am now the main presenter on the same programme I started on all those years ago. I’ve even won an award at the National Hospital Broadcasting Association awards. Volunteers from all backgrounds make up our diverse mix of programmes and membership and you can always guarantee that you will learn new skills and make great friends there…or any hospital radio station come to think of it. There’s that one constant between them – be a friend at the bedside. Any time, any day.
Broadcasting is one of the best experiences of my life and really makes me feel alive. Would I like to do it professionally? Probably, in fact, yes, but then I might only be any good at auctioning things off.
Catch me on Wednesday’s, 8pm.