Talking Of Football On Hospital Radio

Football and radio in the 21st century remain intrinsically linked through Hospital Radio Broadcasting and share many similarities. For decades, volunteers have provided live action coverage of games broadcast directly to hospitals, for patients to enjoy. You may wonder if such a service has any relevance anymore, and I would say it is as vital today as it has ever been.  You may also like to read my other blog concerning hospital radio here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/hospital-radio-in-the-21st-century/

Hospital radio as a concept was born in an era when TV was barely an infant, a personal music player, mobile phones and the internet were futuristic science fiction ideas, and radio was king of entertainment. Patient stays in hospital were far longer, visits severely restricted and contact with the outside world minimal. The BBC only had three programs, commercial radio did not exist, and the only real way of following your football team was to attend the match on a Saturday afternoon.

The core ethos of hospital radio was to provide patients with a service not easily found or available elsewhere.  The development of hospital radio was really to provide a much needed personal, message orientated light entertainment program that was easily accessible by patients. In fact, many hospital radio stations began their existence because of an overwhelming desire to provide sports commentary relevant to local teams, as the BBC didn’t provide a sufficiently detailed service.

The organisation I volunteer for, Radio Leighton in Crewe began as a direct consequence of an experimental broadcast of a Crewe Alexandra FC game in 1966. Our archives don’t record the details of that inaugural broadcast, but I know equipment was borrowed from Forward Radio in nearby Stoke who covered both Stoke City and Port Vale games. An internet search of the 66-67 fixture lists suggest Crewe v Bradford City (1-0) on 8th October 1966 could be a candidate, as both Stoke and Port Vale played away that week.  A second Crewe game was apparently covered on January 7th 1967, a FA Cup game against Darlington (2-1).  Both broadcasts proved so popular that the Mayor Councillor Herbert P Vernon convened a meeting to hear all about these activities.  And so it was on May 4th 1967 in the mayor’s chambers the Crewe and District Hospital Broadcast Service was conceived. Fund raising began and in 1968 on April 20th the Crewe v Wrexham game (0-0) was broadcast using our very own equipment. The following November a full broadcasting program to patients began.

Football clubs can vary from Premiership status to lower league county level and consequently differ in size enormously. Likewise hospitals can be huge complexes spread over several sites down to small county establishments. Teams can have anything from a global appeal to a much more localised support. Similarly hospital radio can be (in theory) available to a worldwide audience through internet broadcasting, cover a wider broadcasting area through FM or AM licences, or just be heard by patients within a specific hospital using an internal loop system (Radio Leighton). Clubs can be run on enormous budgets with huge staff numbers, going down to relying on a small cohort of people to run things on shoe string finances. Larger hospitals can rely on a wider geographical area to find volunteers and have a better chance of attracting sponsorship to enable, for example, 24/7 manned hospital radio stations. Radio Leighton being situated in a small town hospital very much runs on a shoe string budget and relies on a relatively small team of volunteers. Our organisation is indebted to both the Mid-Cheshire Hospital Authority and Crewe Alexandra FC. The hospital authorities ensure we have studio space and cover our daily costs, whilst Crewe Alex finance the costs involved in maintaining our phone link between the studio and stadium. In return for this, our football commentary team link also provides visually-impaired fans full action description.

Modern technology offers unlimited entertainment through streaming and instant connectivity and interaction with the world.  There is a lot of assumption in society that EVERYONE has the means to interact with this modern communication phenomenon. But the average age of patients today still finds the biggest majority of them without this capability, or the funds to sustain a service (such as Hospedia TV) during a longer than expected stay in hospital. In this instance, those excluded from the mobile technology world rely on whatever form of entertainment is provided within a hospital complex. That is why a free to access hospital radio service still remains important and an invaluable social service in the 21st century.

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Hospital Radio in the 21st Century

Not everyone engages in today’s modern technology phenomenon where entertainment, news, family and social interactions are accessed in an instant. Society assumes that the majority of us have the means and capability to use modern communication devices (mobiles, laptops etc). However, as a ward walker for hospital radio, I know that there remains a large majority of patients who do not have this facility available to them. Many come from a generation who neither understand nor like or can afford modern devices. Those who do have mobile technology gadgets may not find them particularly easy to use in hospital. Mobile phone usage may be prohibited; the phone/data signals poor to non-existent; keeping phones charged a nightmare; Wi-Fi access unavailable or at a cost, so a longer than expected stay may prove expensive. Consequently those excluded from the mobile technology world, rely on whatever form of entertainment a hospital complex provides. That is why hospital radio still has a role to play in the 21st century. It can provide local news, cover local sports in more detail, convey personal messages and play a much wider more varied selection of music than national/commercial radio stations.

As a ward walker taking patient requests I’ve found myself in a mix of roles over the years. At times I’ve been a patient’s only visitor, other times I’ve felt more like a councillor, social worker, priest, confidante and friend. The music presenter part comes last of all. Through hospital radio a patient has a friend at the bedside, the lonely find companionship, those feeling frazzled by the demands of their illness find a reassuring calming presence and friendly voice on the radio. Having spoken to the patients before I go on air, I’m sure they feel a sense of community and belonging when they listen to me, and have a palpable sense that someone somewhere still does care about them. Speaking for myself, I know that money cannot buy the feelings I’ve experienced over the years serving the patients of Leighton Hospital. It remains an absolute privilege and pleasure helping those who are unwell, feel a little better and more comforted.

Modern technology offers connection and interaction with the world, yet maintains a clinical remoteness as well. Perhaps that’s why many users of social media still claim to experience feelings of great loneliness. By comparison, hospital radio offers an incredibly personal interaction with patients both face to face and over the airwaves. This is a priceless attribute that should be protected and nourished. Long May Hospital Radio Reign.

The American Dream Pop to the Present Exhibition

This exhibition held at London’s British Museum contains prints from the Pop Art 60s euphoric period, up to today’s offerings which seem to reflect more dark and disturbing times.

I loved the vibrant colours exuded from the Pop Art works that reflected a somewhat enhanced version of real life, and portrayed issues such as Hollywood (Andy Warhol “Marilyn” 1967), consumerism and political subversion. Two colossal displays of shimmering colour immortalised two main aspects of 60s America pre-occupation, the space race and Vietnam. Robert Rauschenberg’s “Sky Garden” (1969) showing a Saturn V5 rocket to the moon with surrounding symbology such as Aldrin’s footprint, was clearly influenced by the American space program. The depiction of a huge weapon used in Vietnam incorporated a mix of images, involving war horrors and an idealised sense of utopia for the everyday American lifestyle. It seems the confused moral issue here was perpetuating the myth that the US lifestyle was somehow perfect, whilst the government was trying to obliterate Vietnam! Another example of this underlying political subversion within art could be seen in the hilarious depiction of President Johnson and Chairman Mao as drag queens (Jim Dine “Drag-“Johnson and Mao” 1967), especially when it emphasised the uncanny facial similarities between the two men.

A small room within the exhibition screened video of the times in American history, John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Obama, with depictions of an idealised family life with all mod cons, Vietnam protests etc. These were juxtaposed with examples of art work from the exhibition displayed on another wall. I was intrigued by a Luther King speech accompanied by a beautiful Negro silhouette head and what I thought was an oddly placed but pretty cage (Kara Walker “Restraint” 2009). The cage turned out to be a form of punishment used on slaves that prevented them from talking, swallowing or sleeping, not so pretty after all.

Jasper Johns” Flags” 1973 print of two vivid American flags hung side by side had a surprising tonal grey graphite version as well. Whilst made in 1973, the darker one seemed much more contemporary and oddly prophetic considering America today. As my husband and I moved through the exhibition we both felt that the displays became far more abstract, dark and quite disturbing.  Meaning became more obscure and despondency came over both of us that hadn’t been evident at the start. As I observed several geometric prints in the latter modern section, I deliberately quelled the voice in my head saying “ok it’s a square so what? A five year old could do that”. Instead I tried to interpret what the artist was trying to convey with the black outline of a shape with white interior. Could it be symbolically depicting conformity in society with no heart or soul, or a stark emptiness despite the bold solid looking exterior!

I’ve always said that America lost its innocence with the Kennedy assassinations. The process began with the JFK murder in 1963 and ended with the loss of King and RFK in 1968. The country has yet to recover from this assault on its national psyche. A more cynical, less trustful and hopeful nation took its place. Obama’s inauguration seemed to offer a ray of hopeful optimism that sadly did not deliver. Now the world watches as the days of President Trump take hold. This exhibition for me conveys that lost 60s exuberance and belief in a bright future and catalogues the journey toward today’s unknown and worryingly dark times.

The American Dream   Exhibition