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History

Adrian Tongue, one of Radio DGH's Co-Founders, looks back on Radio DGH's history...

If I'd known we would still be here nearly 40 years on, I would have noted dates at "the time. However, we do have facts ... so with my ageing memory... here goes!

Radio DGH was born in the spring of 1976. Myself and a friend, Philip Bull, were introduced to a hospital electrician Colin Johnson, now Colin Schiraldi, who had, for a time been helping The Friends of Eastbourne Hospitals present a weekly, mostly record request programme. This had been in existence since 1951 in the old St Mary's and Princess Alice Hospitals. So in fact, hospital radio has now been broadcasting in Eastbourne for the last 60 years. By the mid 1970s, they were presenting their show from a dedicated room next to the phone exchange at the newly completed District General Hospital, which incidentally, was not officially opened by Princess Alexandra until 1977.
Even in this shining new hospital the radio equipment was very basic: two record decks, a 3-channel mixer and a single microphone.

Colin introduced us to various members of 'The Friends' including a stalwart weekly presenter, Muriel Marshall - Martin, who with others after some discussion allowed Colin, Philip and myself to add at first one then slowly more extra programmes to the schedule, to produce a more comprehensive and musically varied service. Although at first somewhat unsure of us, 'The Friends' soon realised we were serious about providing a good regularised Hospital Radio service and they set about not only encouraging us but helping us with some funds for expenses etc.

The word was now getting around that a Hospital Radio service was underway and with other friends and applicants from almost nowhere, we had enough people to form our own committee. This would have been around the autumn of 1976. I believe we had already used the name Radio DGH but in committee we took a vote and adopted the name officially. In forming the committee we were immediately affiliated to 'The Friends' to both allow them to retain some influence and to know that their hard-earned funds, when any were directed our way, would be used wisely. Over about three and a half years, we expanded both in numbers and service and we started to raise our own funds which included at least a couple of 'bed pushes' round Eastbourne, dances at the Princess Alice social club and various other events.

We realised we urgently needed to expand our broadcasting facilities. So we embarked on a major fundraising exercise to provide money for a properly equipped and soundproofed studio. This process led not only to 'The Friends' but Lions Club ' at least one Rotary Club and various others, including even the WRVS, helping us to amass around £10,000 for our project, which came to fruition around the summer of 1980.

I haven't yet mentioned many of the early presenters who worked with us before and after the new studio became a reality. They included John Royle, Chris Wood, Martin Just-Fletcher, Stuart Woodford, Nigel Briggs, Sue White, Andy Wade, Russ Williams, Rob Eldridge, Brian Peters, Brian Glass, Kay Whitehead, Mark Lee and for a time the late Harold Perkins, our locally well known resident poet. If I have missed any names - please forgive me!'- A number of our presenters have found fame in broadcasting, especially Russ Williams (Virgin Radio and ITV Snooker) and a later presenter Martin Buchanan (MTV and currently Magic FM in London) to name but two. I must also mention Norman Johnson who not only held a senior post in the hospital but also became a presenter, particularly of our religious broadcasting and was for many years our treasurer. He is especially remembered for programmes he presented with the late Ian Gow, our M.P. at the time.
Our new studio was officially opened by comedian Ken Goodwin and once it was in place, we really took off. After much discussion, it was decided we would remain in our original room next to the phone exchange, which was fortunately large enough to split into two studios plus a small 'reception' area - a far its earlier incarnation as one room, a bench and a couple of turntables!

In this attempt at a synopsis of early Radio DGH I must also give special mention to two wonderful men, sadly no longer with us. First, Doug Gruttenden who was a tireless worker and fundraiser with 'The Friends' and whom I believe was also a staff member in the Eastbourne Hospitals area. He had enormous enthusiasm for Radio DGH and became a great enabler of funds for us. Secondly, the late Norman Meadows, so well known in the town for his appearances at the pier and a real 'showbiz legend'! Norman visited us on a number of occasions and was instrumental in helping us and others raise funds.

Finally, I must pay tribute to the Hospital Management team who have always supported us and our work, which is recognised through survey and practice as being of therapeutic value as well as great fun! Without such important support from so many Radio DGH could not and cannot exist.

Radio DGH was completely rebuilt at a cost of almost £30,000 in 1999.
After much deliberation the contract was awarded to Alice Soundtech of Lingfield and for most of the summer, the old studios were ripped out, with the complex refurbished and new equipment installed to allow Radio DGH to broadcast in full stereophonic audio, to the (then brand new) Patientline units in the hospital.

This was made possible by a grant of £12,000 from the National Lottery, a donation from the Friends’ of Eastbourne Hospitals and much fundraising by our volunteers.
The two studios have Soundtech Series A mixers and CD Players and, as of around 2005, now have the P Squared “Myriad” Playout system, which allows music and news to be broadcast automatically or live, 24/7.
Sky News Radio provide the news via satellite and the studios now have an ADSL line, to allow broadband to be used for news gathering and research.

(Adapted from an article written by Adrian in around 2001)

Radio DGH, Eastbourne District General Hospital, Kings Drive, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 2UD
Telephone: 01323 435748 | Email: info@RadioDGH.com | Twitter: @RadioDGH | Facebook: www.facebook.com/RadioDGH | Registered Charity Number: 291886

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