Here for you 24/7

For most of Hospital Radio Ipswich’s life we used to broadcast live programmes for a few hours each night and afterwards return to a sustaining service for the rest of the time. Most recently this sustaining service was BBC Radio Suffolk. Though having a sustaining service had a few problems because we could not establish whether patients were listening to us or local radio and patients may have wanted to listen to something on BBC Radio Suffolk, which would be replaced by a Hospital Radio Ipswich show. Therefore, we felt that the patients should be able to benefit from us for more than a few hours per day.

It was decided in 2005 that it would be nice to run a 24-hour service though we knew that we would not be able to find presenters to present shows at all hours of the day and night. So a technical solution was needed. We went on a fact-finding mission to our neighbouring hospital radio station at Colchester and had a tour of their studios and technical area. We came away from them with lots of ideas in addition to how they did their 24-hour service.

So we started sorting out the hardware and software needed to equip Hospital Radio Ipswich. We ended up purchasing four new computers from 1st Graphic Computers. One for each studio, one to provide the 24-hour service and hold the record library, and one to handle other operation like recording shows. We also decided to go for the same software as Hospital Radio Colchester - DRS2006. It wasn’t too expensive, but our main consideration being if we had any problems with it we knew someone else who was used to the program.

Once we had the equipment and software installed we were technically ready to go 24 hours but not to a high standard of professionalism. We had decided that our 24-hour output would have news on the hour so we had to contact IRN (now Sky News) to sort out using their news service, which meant we needed to buy and install a satellite receiver. Then there were all the pre-recorded shows that were on minidisk, which had to be transferred to the computer and we needed to load a selection of the patient’s favourite music onto the computer. If we wanted whole albums things would have been simpler but for the benefit of the patients we wanted specific tracks and those details had to then be entered into DRS2006. Back then it wasn’t like iTunes where it would just get the track information from the Internet. All the track and artist names had to be entered by hand. Last, but not least, we had to connect all of the computers into the radio station’s audio wiring so they could be heard.

It took quite a long time to go from that visit to Colchester to the point in late 2009 when we felt that we could trust the computer to run the 24-hour service and it wouldn’t have happened without the dedication of our volunteers who put many man hours into making it happen. Still, it is an ongoing process adding new music and tweaking the service to keep it running but now it is here we hope that the patients are enjoying Hospital Radio Ipswich 24 hours a day 7 days a week.