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Hospital radio station celebrates 50 years of broadcasting in Havering

Mayor Eric Munday launches Bedrock radio online. He requested Old Black Magic by jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Mayor Eric Munday launches Bedrock radio online. He requested Old Black Magic by jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.

Saturday, February 22, 2014
6:00 PM

After lifting the moods of patients for half a century, a hospital radio station has celebrated its birthday by launching a new online web-stream.

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Bev Stroud (third left) and Mat Watson (far right) with mayor, Cllr Eric Munday and volunteers.Bev Stroud (third left) and Mat Watson (far right) with mayor, Cllr Eric Munday and volunteers.

Bedrock, a 24/7 station based at Queen’s Hospital, is part of the borough’s rich history in the radio format - which started way back in 1964.

And what better way to symbolise the technological changes in broadcasting than to make the station available to outpatients and families via the internet?

To find out more about the history - and future - of hospital radio in Havering, the Recorder spoke to chairman Mat Watson, 23, and its longest serving volunteer, Bev Stroud, 48, following the weekend celebration.

“The station was started by an amateur film group,” explained Bev, “the first show was broadcast on February 14, 1964.”

The Harold Wood Radio team on a promotional float in 1979.The Harold Wood Radio team on a promotional float in 1979.

“Back then it was called Harold Wood Hospital Radio and the shows were pre-recorded. By the late 70s it was an official charity run by volunteers.”

In those days, the station provided shows for Warley Hospital in Brentwood and Victoria Hospital in Romford.

Meanwhile, Oldchurch Hospital in Romford, had its own station, Radio Rush Green, which then became Radio 174, and finally Oldchurch Radio.

In 2002, the stations merged to create Bedrock, in time for its move to the new Queen’s Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford in 2006.

Camilla at the station.Camilla at the station.

Bev, who has overseen the switch from vinyl to the modern-day computerised “drag and drop” method, says it is much easier to present a show now.

“There has been a lot of change equipment wise. With the vinyl you had to make sure the needle was in the right place so it didn’t create unwanted noise. “Now you just drop a song onto the computer playlist and click play.”

But the process of deciding which songs get played has remained constant.

“We have a team who go out and take requests from the patients,” said Mat, who has been at the station for eight years.

“Now and then you get some very strange requests, we’ve had Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out of This Place and The Verve’s The Drugs Don’t Work.

“But the strangest one I can remember was Brain Damage by Pink Floyd. The patients like to have a bit of a laugh with it.”

With a database of between 4-5,000 songs, Mat says it is rare that the requests are not met, but if so, the team will ensure the track is acquired.

With specialist shows including country and easy-listening, as well as a chart show for the children’s ward patients, bedside radios are often tuned in to the station.

“Back in the day we had to send a team round and give out radios to the patients,” said Bev.

“But they used to get nicked” added Mat.

Nowadays, the team of 30 volunteers range from 15-years-old to 83 - and the team are hoping to branch out, with King George Hospital apparently keen on airing the shows.

As for funding, the station is entirely run on donations, and the team can often be found broadcasting from school fetes or shopping centres to raise money.

But in the short term, Mat says the aim is the same as ever.

“We want to continue to help patients,” he said, “and get the station recognised a bit more. The webstream will allow more people to listen.”

To listen live, visit bedrockradio.org.uk.

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