Sunday, 8 May 2011

Time on my hands

I have created a wish list on Amazon. I'm not hinting or anything. It just seemed like the best way to start this little memoir.

You may or may not know, but a few years ago, I used to be a prolific hospital radio volunteer. I say volunteer rather than DJ because it was about so much more than being a wannabe disc spinner.That is how it started out to be completely honest but once there I started my love affair with volunteering. Whilst there, I got two very important things. The first was my lifelong friends. I don't keep in touch (other than Facebook obviously) with anybody I went to school with. But the friends I made at the two hospital radio stations I volunteered at are the ones that I keep in touch with to this day. I think it is mainly because they are great people, but part of the reason I think that, is because we share some common interests.

The second thing I got from hospital radio was a strong sense of community. I lived in an area that was hit hard by the Thatcherism policies of the eighties and as a consequence had plenty of time to kill. I could have made a few bob selling stolen hubcaps but instead I decided to try to get some experience in a role I thought I could make a career out of. Instead, I became much more involved in the communal aspects. We used to visit patients on the ward to see if they would like a record playing on our show. It was a blatant push for listeners really but I ended up enjoying that side as much as the output. Laughing and joking with people, some of whom were in quite difficult circumstances, put into perspective any problems I had. And I learnt that people that are in a situation that is alien or uncomfortable to them, do appreciate somebody taking time to make them smile. Music can be a great therapy, and making sure that patients had access to their favourite pieces was a way of giving them something that could take them away, even momentarily, from their difficulties.

I got to interview the stars on the children's ward
Of course, the hospital community doesn't just include patients. The staff were a vital part of that. And as they tended to be the constants in the mix, they did become very integral to our efforts. The wards could have communal speakers as well as bedside headsets, so getting the staff on side to persuade them to put the ward speakers on was a big boost. One way we did this was by instilling a little inter ward competitiveness. The Ward of the Week quiz gave everyone on the wards, staff and patients, the chance to be involved and acted as a way of breaking down social barriers.

Since then, I have volunteered in a second hospital radio station as well as being a town councillor (no expenses were received) and a school governor. I have also become involved in community radio which extends the ethos of hospital radio beyond the confines of the hospitalwalls and opens up the opportunities for a wider range of community projects to be involved.

Of course, I alsoreally liked  spinning the discs on hospital radio and have recently unearthed some long lost tapes of a few of the shows we did. I am now determined to digitise these tapes for future posterity, hence the wish list on Amazon.

If you have time to spare and think that volunteering is something you would get a lot out of, there are a number of websites that you could try. Do It and Volunteering England are two of the busiest and if you want to be a school governor The School Governor One Stop Shop can help.

PS Woe be tied anyone who mentions The Big Society.

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