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Radio Horton volunteers play a crucial role

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This Volunteers' Week, the Horton General Hospital's radio station is celebrating the volunteers who help to make it what it is.

Volunteers' Week (1-7 June) is an annual celebration organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) to recognise the fantastic contribution that millions of volunteers make across the country. Yet with so many organisations needing the support of volunteers to survive, what makes people choose hospital radio?

Banbury's hospital radio station, Radio Horton, was first launched in July 1964 by local journalists, Ted Hanson MBE and Graham Wilton. The core principle of the station was volunteering with the aim to provide light entertainment, reassurance and a friend at the bedside to patients in hospital, by playing their favourite choices of music.

To this day, that spirit and pride from volunteering lives on within the station's membership.

Volunteer and Saturday morning presenter, Kitty Opal, says: "Radio Horton has not only improved my presentational skills but provided me with a platform that has helped my career in the music industry in ways I never imagined. It has built on my interview skills and helped develop some great, lasting friendships."

Radio Horton Trustee and Programme Coordinator, Sam Smette, has volunteered in a variety of roles with the hospital radio station since 2013. Sam thinks the secret to good practice volunteering is to work with your colleagues, and support and encourage their personal development and new ideas.

"One key to volunteer retention is engagement and motivation. In this day and age, where organisations often find their resources stretched, it’s important to encourage your volunteers to utilise their existing skills, to maximise those resources, in addition to finding new talent and allowing room for improvement," Sam enthuses.

"You should absolutely listen, encourage and welcome new ideas and suggestions from members to the board, to help steer the future direction of the organisation. Without the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication from our volunteers, our [board] roles as trustees would be far more challenging."

Long serving member Colin Beeby has spent more than 30 years behind the microphone at Radio Horton and shares his volunteering experience.

"My inspiration was to share with others my love for all types of music. I hope this will enlighten and bring a few minutes' relief to patients within the Horton General Hospital," he explains.

Colin continues: "The difference it has made for me is making new friends and socialising with them away from the studio environment. At the end of the day, we all have the same passion - to think about patients less fortunate than ourselves."

One of Radio Horton's newest members, Will Beech, was recently awarded with the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, a national youth awards scheme which aims to inspire and transform the lives of millions of young people. Part of the scheme involves voluntary work, which Will chose to undertake with Radio Horton.

Will said "Volunteering at Radio Horton certainly helped develop my technical abilities, as well as made me more personable. I've made several friends through hospital radio, helped at community events, and even assisted with redecorating the studios for the station's anniversary celebrations in 2015."

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, meeting patients, helping them use the bedside entertainment systems, discussing their favourite musical tastes and collecting requests for the evening request programmes.

"Hospital radio can be a welcome distraction away from the medical business and ward activities," says Sam.

New research from the Royal Voluntary Service, a national charity which is committed to helping people in need, has revealed that 63 percent of Britons agree that volunteers provide essential emotional support to hospital patients when doctors and nurses are stretched for time.

For Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award winner, Will, it’s about making a difference to patients in hospital: "I love getting to play my favourite music, and share it with people who may need to hear a friendly voice."

For more information on volunteering at Radio Horton, visit the website:

Picture: Radio Horton's Sam Smette interviews a guest.