When Radio Royal moved to its new state-of-the-art digs, it never missed a beat as it continued its mission to put smiles on patients’ faces and help in their recovery.
One year on from its transfer to Forth Valley Royal Hospital and the station has settled in nicely – still going strong, broadcasting a wide variety of music, sport and chat 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
Simon Marshall, treasurer, said: “Our main aim is to entertain the patients, staff and visitors to the hospital.
“A few people come up to us at every roadshow and tell us how Radio Royal helped them through a tough time and they really liked what they heard.
“They say we made their time in hospital that little bit easier.”
Formed back in 1976, Radio Royal does not have to endure the same commercial constraints as other stations and has a lot of leeway when it comes to the choice of music they play – allowing DJs freedom to raid their own record collections.
Jimmy McNiven, station manager, said: “I’m interested in music from the 50’s and 60’s – for me music stopped being made after 1969.
“I was a DJ in the 1980s and I joined Radio Royal to try and keep my brain active.
“Now you can carry 12 hours of music in a little box – before you would have needed a couple of cases.”
Simon added: “I played a song from 1929 recently – Bessie Smith’s ‘No One Knows You When You’re Down and Out’.
I also play some Robert Johnson blues from the 1930s.”
Radio Royal is split into two broadcasting stations – Radio Royal, the “Gold” station, which is geared towards the older listener and includes everything from rock ‘n’ roll to country to easy listening to 1950s, 60s and 70s classics and Royal Two, which plays today’s pop and indie hits and is aimed at a younger audience.
Local bands can also get their music played and there is the facility for them to play a live session in the studio.
“We are keen to grow the station,” said Simon. “To get the service out to as many people as we possibly can – Forth Valley is a massive area – but our priority is and always will be this hospital, we still have so much we can achieve here.
“The set-up here is better than some of the commercial radio stations I’ve seen.”
Thanks to a computer fallback system, which kicks in when there are no live presenters, the station never goes silent – there’s no such thing as dead air at Radio Royal.
Craig Arthur, engineering manager, said: “We are now available on freeview television – you don’t have to tune in anymore – when you turn the television on we are the default channel that comes on first.
“Our job is to hold people’s interest and keep them listening.”
Once a Radio Royal volunteer member is fully trained in broad-casting techniques they are then let loose on the airwaves –under the supervision of more experienced members at first.
Lee Tait, training manager, said: “You need to be competent enough to operate a wide variety of software and hardware and be able to construct a radio programme.
“We aim to get people to a level where they are competent broad-casters.
“Hospital radio is often seen as a stepping stone for people who go on to have a career in broadcasting – either in front of the mic or in the production side.
“Central FM’s Steve Courtney cut his teeth on Radio Royal.”
Strange as it may seem, you will not hear the most valuable members of Radio Royal on the airwaves.
Ward visitors, formerly known as request collectors, go around the hospital and chat with patients to see what they think of the shows and take any musical requests people might have.
Simon said: “Ward visitors are really important because they can build up a real rapport with longer term patients.
“Most of the feedback we get comes through the request collectors and it’s good to know that people are enjoying what we do.”
n If anyone is interested in radio, either presenting or on the production side, get in touch with the station which is always looking for more volunteers. Visit www.radioroyal.org to find out more.