Cheers to Fifty-six years, Radio Horton celebrates 56!

New for 2020: Radio Horton's new magazine

The hospital, health and wellbeing broadcasting service for Banbury, Radio Horton is celebrating its fifty-sixth anniversary today (7th July 2020). The station launched in 1964 and was the brainchild of local journalists, the late Ted Hanson MBE and Graham Wilton with the first listeners being greeted by the immortal words “This is Radio Horton calling”.

Radio Horton's new website
Radio Horton’s new website

Recent circumstances have meant the radio station has had to adapt some of its processes to continue broadcasting throughout the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, with some intrepid volunteers now presenting their radio programmes from home studios. The station has continued to provide vital information on behalf of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as well as promoting the work of the Horton General Hospital Charity.

In addition, Radio Horton has been working with local performing arts group, Voices Across Time to help deliver their bespoke outreach programme to patients in the Horton General Hospital and residents of partner care homes. The weekly programme, Bring Me Sunshine are themed around different topics each designed to stimulate memories and provide thought-provoking content intertwined with exercises for body and voice; songs to sing or dance along to; special guests and personalised voicemail messages from family and friends.

New Website & Magazine Launch

Radio Horton has today launched its new website making for improved accessibility and a responsive layout, which enables access on the latest smart phones and tablets. Publicity Officer, Sam Smette explains: “The previous incarnation of Radio Horton’s website was beginning to look tired and dated, with some limitations making it more challenging to maintain, especially with our expansion of service.”

“The new website comprises of a completely new, flexible design which has been completed over the last few weeks whilst I’d been on furlough from my day-job. Users should find a new, improved experience, better performance therefore enabling them to navigate, access content and most importantly, tune in!”

“Making our website more responsive so that it renders on smart phones and tablets was key and the framework of the existing site allowed us to do this relatively easily. With more patients going into hospital equipped with technology – especially at times where family members have been unable to visit their loved ones, ensuring easier means of navigation and accessibility has been paramount.”, Sam enthuses.

Other improvements include a section for prospective volunteers to get involved and donation platforms.

The website is also complemented by the launch of Radio Horton’s new magazine, published by Hospital Radio Publications. The magazine contains a wealth of content regarding the station, a history of Radio Horton and the Horton General Hospital, information from the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and quizzes and puzzles to help pass the time.

Sam says: “The magazines were delivered to us just weeks prior to lockdown. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to distribute them to the wards, but we hope to be able to do so as soon as it is safe.”

The story:

Like many hospital radio stations, Radio Horton was launched in 1964 in the days predating any modern technology. Founders, Ted Hanson MBE and Graham Wilton developed an appetite for broadcast whilst both working as journalists at a local newspaper.

For the inaugural programme, listeners were treated to two half-hours of patient requests linked by a short review of local news and was recorded on tape in the lounge of Graham’s home. During this time, they competed with dogs barking, cats sneezing (or was it laughing?) and a baby crying. A dedicated cable link from the in-house studio to a unit bedside every bed allowed listeners to tune in.

New for 2020: Radio Horton's new magazine
New for 2020: Radio Horton’s new magazine

With the evolution of technology, Radio Horton was able to broadcast utilising new technologies and in the 1990’s could be heard on the Hospedia Patient Bedside Entertainment System. Since the mid-2000’s, the station has been able to stream its broadcasts online allowing for relatives and friends of patients to send in requests for their loved ones and the ability for patients receiving external care or those feeling under the weather at home.

The station prides itself on its unique health and wellbeing focus, offering a diverse programme schedule to suit a variety of listening taste buds. From country to classical, soul to jazz, popular chart hits, health talk shows and specialist programming aimed at evoking powerful memories, creating natural stimulants through sound and creating thought-provoking conversation to benefit individual’s with life limiting illnesses, or those living with conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps of paramount importance within hospital radio, is the role of the ward visitor. The unsung heroes of hospital radio, ward visitors are the friendly face-to-face contact, spending their time volunteering on the wards of the Horton Hospital meeting patients, helping them use the bedside entertainment systems and discussing their favourite musical tastes, collecting requests for the evening request programmes.

“Some patients may not see a friendly face, or non-clinical staff member during an entire day they are in hospital. Our ward visitors really do contribute and help bridge that gap. Hospital radio can be a welcome distraction away from the medical business and ward activities.”, Chairman, Anthony Brown regales.

Becoming a registered charity in 2009, Radio Horton generates a majority of its funding through sponsorship with local businesses and by hosting public-address, music and entertainment at popular community events and fundraisers. More recently, online fundraising platforms which allow the station to benefit from the Government’s Gift Aid incentive.

Pivotal to its success is the team of volunteers. The core principles of Radio Horton were built on volunteering, with the ambition to provide light entertainment, reassurance and a friend at the bedside to patients in hospital by playing their favourite choices of music at times when they need it most.

Radio Horton now has a membership of around 30 volunteers who either present programmes, visit the wards, assist with the delivery of the care home service or committee members (trustees) who manage the day-to-day running of the organisation. You can find out more about Radio Horton, its history, fundraising and volunteering opportunities on the website.

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