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Category: Hospital Radio

Why I felt I had to leave Hospital Radio after eight years…

I want to start with an overview of doing voluntary work. When you give up your time for free to give something back, you do so because you enjoy it and not because you endure it. Once you come away from it less happy than you were going in then it is time to stop. In general I’ve found voluntary work to follow a certain pattern. You start and you enjoy it, then you enjoy it a little bit less but still enjoy it, then you do it because it is what you do, then you do it out of obligation and then you the negatives start outweighing the positives and it is time to walk away. That is pretty much what happened here.

For seven odd years I thoroughly enjoyed it but the last year less so and certainly the past few months. Most people that knew me away from the station were really hoping I’d walk away as it sooner than I did. They knew how much it was agitating me. As someone else at the station said (whom I didn’t share a night with) said to me ‘there is just too much politics’ and that I think it probably quite a fair statement. Heck I’m involved in politics and if you’d have asked me whether local politics or the Hospital Radio station was more political, I wouldn’t be able to answer straight away, it would require some thought.

I was involved in two separate shows and I will talk about them in isolation because I could do one without the other.

For eight years I had been involved in the request show on a Wednesday night. People have come and people have gone. The show has gone on and will continue to do so without me. For many years I was trusted to do the show but in recent months it was clear that for whatever reason, that trust had evaporated. I was never told why this trust had gone but I have my suspicions. It could of course be that the board had decided to adopt Fox Mulder’s policy of ‘Trust No-one’ because the rumblings from other nights and from other people was that the board didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t them.

It came to a head for me personally when one week a board member was sent in to spy on me under the pretense that we needed extra people to do the show as we had a grand total of one person away. So that meant we still had five people, which is way more than enough to do the request collecting and present the show. How do I know that she was sent to spy on me? Well lets put it this way, she won’t be working for the secret service anytime soon. I won’t go into detail but I will say this, it wasn’t just me that thought it, every single person thought it and thought it straight away.

There is some added background I should probably throw in at this point. Certain people have long perceived me to have an ego that needed to be curbed. Whether or not I have an ego is up for debate and I won’t sit here and type that I didn’t think I was pretty darn good at what I did – both on the wards and in terms of presenting – but when new members are introduced to me with the words, ‘this is Neil, he thinks its his show but its not’ then I personally think that lacks class somewhat and is actually off.

I haven’t applied to do any other radio work. I never asked to do my own show. Even when I joined the football team I did so because I was asked and not because I asked. Many people come into that radio station with ambitions to go further in radio and actively use it to just further their radio journey before dropping it the moment they’ve got what they wanted, yet folks it is me, the loyal guy who hasn’t used the station who has the ego problem that is damaging everyone else. With me out of the way everyone will be happy and blossom. I was the problem. Yeah…

Here is a good example of the type of thing that was being introduced that I found annoying. Obviously when presenting a radio show as part of a team, only one person can drive the show at any one point. That just comes with the territory of presenting on radio. So you have to rotate amongst the people that want to do it. However too much rotation within a show leads to a disconcerting experience for the listener. I have heard shows with three or four main presenters within a two hour block and frankly they are terrible.

Anyway recently there were just two people who wanted to drive the show so we did the whole show each on alternate weeks. We both preferred that to doing one hour each every week. However the board decided that wasn’t good enough and that every week we had to rotate amongst everyone who wanted to drive a show. So if for example there are six people who want to drive a show then they have to get 20 minutes each. That is to be frank madness and doesn’t think about the listener experience but whatever. In terms of the night I did, we had to change the way we did things despite everyone being happy with how we did it because someone on the board disagreed. Does that really make much sense?

So I was always going to take the World Cup off as a) I wanted to watch as much of it as possible and b) I actually had quite a bit of work to do on unsurprisingly giving what I actually do for a living. I also thought this would give plenty of time for others to present without my evil spectre hovering over them and curbing them. When asked why I wasn’t there the next week, a board member said that I had ‘gone off in a huff’ – all class folks. All class. I had decided not to return during this hiatus but came in for one week as the others who could present were both away, I came back but got told so many new rules and all the things I now wasn’t allowed to do because I was too dominating and I knew I was done.

That is why my request show team days were done but of course I still did the football, well I thought I did. I’ll start from the very beginning. Three years ago I was asked to become the third man in a two man booth to cover for one of the two main guys if they were away, one of these two was retiring and moving away so I would do my time and become his replacement. Excellent news.

For three years that was the case up until this summer. Over the course of these three years I had done more and more games but only strictly as the summeriser. That is key here folks and I’ll tell you why. At the AGM this year it was brought up that they really needed someone to train up to commentate if both of the two main guys were unavailable. Someone actually brought me up and asked about me as surely I was involved and it drew a rather interesting response. Apparently I was only a summeriser, I was not as good as I thought I was, I had too big of an ego, I didn’t understand how much work was involved in commentating and to be blunt – I just wasn’t the person they wanted. The fun bit was I was actually in the room and heard all of this. A nice personal attack at the AGM and did anyone step up and say that wasn’t on? No they didn’t. Afterwards several people came up to me and asked what that was all about and I said I didn’t know but it just reinforced the notion that I believed I just wasn’t liked and it was thought life would be better if I just disappeared.

For three years I was told I would be the next commentator and I was ready to undergo whatever training was needed. Everyone knew this and I was told I’d get the appropriate training this summer. Instead of this however the station advertised for new commentators, interviewed a couple of people and I believe have brought at least one of them on board and maybe even both. With the current set up of two commentators and bringing in at least one new person, you don’t need four people as it is extremely rare both main guys will be unavailable. So the new person is now obviously the cover guy and I’ve been relegated to ‘use only in desperation’ or ‘do not use at all’ – I haven’t been told which.

Now here’s something else. I was already down to cover the opening game of the season as one of the two guys was unavailable. A few days before I was told that they had hired a new person and he’d also be doing that game. The thing is we only have two press passes. Three into two doesn’t go. I read this and knew that even if I went to the game, I wouldn’t get in as you aren’t going to bring in a new person for their first game and say he can’t come in, so I just said if I needed to step down then that is fine and that was greatly received.

I said nothing on it because of the Southend v Portsmouth match on September 13. I had already been told that I was covering this game so I knew that if I was completely out of the radio that I’d hear nothing and not get to cover this game. I heard nothing and can now assume that I’ve been cut adrift completely. It is annoying as I had two friends wedding that day and I had said I couldn’t go to the reception because I already had plans.

Personally I think certainly on this front I’ve been treated pretty shabbily. I’m sure others will disagree and say I’m at fault or maybe that I was just never good enough but three years ago I was brought in to replace a guy as he was leaving. Three years later I’ve been culled before he’s left and before I was ever given the opportunity to step up to commentate. To be cut without ever actually being given the opportunity sucks but what can you do?

So I walk away with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth I must admit. I’ve not even written half of the things that I could. I hope that my departure means that everything is now amazing and my perceived reign of terror is over. Everyone will come out of their shells and blossom into the radio presenters they were meant to be if I wasn’t stunting their growth and dominating the situation. In case you can’t tell I’m being sarcastic.

Yet at some point you just realise that you just aren’t wanted anymore and when that happens it is best to just walk away. That is the same in many forms of life. There is no point trying to save something that is beyond saving and if you aren’t wanted you aren’t wanted. What can you do? I’m sure the station will carry on perfectly well without me and probably most think it’ll be a darn site better too.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

An ode to Classic FM TV

As some of you may know I am involved in local Hospital Radio. For the past few weeks I have been recording some extra standby shows for when a presenter is unable to present his or her show and two of them I am extremely proud of so I thought I’d speak about them here on the blog and provide download links in case you wanted to hear them.

Years ago there was a channel on the Sky EPG called ‘Classic FM TV’ which featured modern classical music from opera to instrumental. I used to listen to it a lot when I felt a bit down or a bit up tight as it would relax me and chill me out. This might surprise a few people but I found this music often inspiring as well as relaxing. Alas it stopped transmitting in December 2007 and a lot of this music became lost to me.

One thing that I personally enjoy about radio and in particular doing these types of shows is I get to (re)discover lots of different music. Being part of a radio station really does open your eyes to so many different genres of music and on this occasion it allowed me to reminisce about many tracks that I had completely forgotten about over the past few years.

So if you were a fan of Classic FM TV or just a lover of modern classical music then feel free to have a listen. The links are below. Or if you just want to hear just how bad I am as a radio presenter then feel free to do that as well. I’d recommend just ignoring my waffle and enjoy the music.

An Ode to Classic FM TV part 1.
An Ode to Classic FM TV part 2.


I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Last night at the age of 28 I achieved my #1 lifelong ambition – here’s the story

For those of you who read this who have known me for many years you’ll know what my lifelong ambition was. Those who haven’t known me for that long probably won’t know. Some might think it’s to become an MP and maybe in time Prime Minister. That isn’t it. Some might think it’s to find a partner and live happily ever after. No it’s not that. Some might think it was to become a professional sportsman. Nah I’m afraid from a young age my minor disability pretty much put pay to that. Some might think that that it is to become a published fiction author. Whilst that is an ambition it has never been the most important goal of mine.

My number one ambition from a very young age was to become a sports commentator – not for TV – but for radio. I had no ambitions to call an England World Cup game for the BBC (although heck if happened I wouldn’t exactly be complaining) but it was to call a football game live on radio. It didn’t matter if it was a small community station or a large national network. The act of calling a live game was what I wanted to do.

Well last night – Tuesday 9 August 2011 – I achieved my main life ambition. I co-commentated on Southend United v Leyton Orient live for Southend Hospital Radio and the blind inside in Roots Hall. I had been asked before but turned it down as I wanted to wait until it was right and I could get into a rhythm. This off season I was asked if I’d like to takeover the position on a semi-permanent basis and I agreed and that semi will be withdrawn once the incumbent finally moves away which is what he is looking to do. So for this season it looks as though I’ll be doing the majority of evening games with a few Saturday’s thrown in as and when.

I must admit that I thought I’d be a lot more nervous than I was. This was my main life goal I was about to achieve and I just got on with it. I met my co-commentator briefly last Wednesday and last night was the first time we had a real conversation. Yet we gelled extremely quickly and we had a very simple system. David was the play-by-play guy and I was the analyst. I didn’t want to talk over him so I used the technique I know Murray Walker and Martin Brundle used when they first worked together – if I had something I wanted to say I’d just touch his arm and he’d finish up what he was saying and allow me to speak. He’d also come to me at various moments during play to summerise what that attack had gone etc…

The broadcast box at the back of the Directors Box had BBC Essex, another station, Sky Sports News and us. Therefore we were sat next to Tony Colliver who was doing the game for the Gillette Soccer Special. That was pretty cool. The most bizarre thing is you had three channels doing live commentary and you can hear them all very clearly so you have to zone out of everything around you and just tune into your broadcast partners voice. BBC Essex were extremely lively (and was David) so it was probably good that were at opposite ends of the commentary box!

As for the game itself well it went to Extra Time & Penalties. I just had a feeling that it would. First game and we were made to work overtime. We threw back to the studio at half-time but from the start of the second half until the penalty shoot-out was over it was all us. So the best part of two hours non-stop. I also did play-by-play briefly a couple of times whilst David was helping Tony out with a couple of things. I remember once finishing my sentence and realising David was busy talking to Tony so had to carry on. The call of the penalty shoot-out was terrific as I was talking most of the time between each spot kick so I could get into a flow and a half.

I know some of say ‘pfft it’s only hospital radio and for the blind so who cares’ but I’d reply that the people listening in the hospital and the blind at the ground care. I’m 28 now and my aspirations in the media industry are pretty much in the rear view mirror. I do radio for fun and not for a career. In my time I’ve been the editor of the most popular two sections of one of the top ten football sites out there at the time, been a Sports Editor of a network of 47 websites, been featured in The Times and the Wall Street Journal and for a couple of years provided snapshot match reports for The Observer. I’ve been interviewed live in the Sky News studio (although I still have never watched it back – but it is on YouTube if you fancy watching it – just search for my name and it will come up) and read the news on Local Radio and been interviewed for many national radio stations. So I have done a fair bit but that is mostly in my past I think. If something comes up that changes that then so be it but I’m happy enough just to do it for fun and my career isn’t exactly doing awfully in another profession and I’m not sitting on the breadline.

I must admit that I do think that doing this (and other Hospital Radio stuff) makes me feel like I’m doing something for the community and giving something back. I’m a relatively selfish person. I live alone and work from home but I am happy to give my time and energies to causes that I feel are worthwhile. As someone else said last week at the radio whilst I was doing my Wednesday show ‘if only one person every few weeks rings up and says that you’ve really made their stay in hospital more bearable then we are doing ok’. You don’t want to get patted on the back every day or every week but just so you know that people are helped by what you do every so often then that is all that matters and it makes the whole process more than worthwhile.

I don’t know when my next game is but it won’t be far away. David who has been doing it for yonks said he felt it came across really well and I’ll speak with the Programme Controller tonight to see what he thought about how it came across (he was presenting from the studio end). I’m my own worst critic as anyone who knows me well will attest but even I thought it sounded very good and it just worked extremely well. If I didn’t think I was doing it justice then I’d say so and not do it any more but that was good. I’m sure of it.

One thing I need to write as I’m a name-dropper. Just before I left last night I got a good luck message from pop star Gabriella Cilmi. I’m sorry but that is totally awesome. Thank you to her and to all the other good luck messages I got on Twitter, Facebook, E-mail and via text. They were all very much appreciated.

So that is my main life ambition done. Let’s look at the opening paragraph again and see what I can work on next. Let me see…

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

All Brand New Southend Hospital Radio Downloads Page

Hello All.

I have finally got round to sorting out the mess that was my Southend Hospital Radio Download Links. Now instead of being listed to the right of the screen they are all listed on one page which I will update frequently. The new page is behind the following link – Southend Hospital Radio Downloads and it can be found at all times in the right-hand nav near the top of the screen.

Listed are all the shows that are available to download along with dates, hosts and presenters of each show.

There is even a bonus download of a random show from some time in early 2007 featuring the one legendary and missed Nick Holmes. If he ever reads this then please get in touch.

So if you have any interest in Hospital Radio then have a gander or even if you are just interested in hearing just how terrible I am at radio then the same applies. Enjoy and please let me know what you think either via e-mail or by leaving a comment. For all enquiries about Southend Hospital Radio then please send me an e-mail or look at the official SHR website.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Southend Hospital Radio – dragging themselves into the modern era

Just a quick post to talk about what I do on Wednesday Night’s – well apart from try and find gorgeous nurses around Southend Hospital. I’m at Southend Hospital for the purpose of presenting a Hospital Radio show. I have done it for four years – although for a while I was in the main an absentee member due to the fact I lived 100 miles away – but now I’m back and once more I feel comfortable with the show and everything.

Now in recent times we’ve got a new guy doing all the technical stuff. This has meant that we’ve worked on our website, put together a blog and I just found out that we are even on Twitter. I mean Southend Hospital Radio on Twitter, whatever next?

Anyway, I did a blog post today over on the SHR Blog about what we do and why Hospital Radio isn’t something that is out of date. I know young people in hospital probably have iPods and iPhones and Laptops to keep them amused but many people do not and for those people Hospital Radio provides a service that they enjoy. It isn’t just me saying that – they tell us themselves – and when they do it makes it feel all the more worthwhile.

So if you are interested in helping out your local Hospital Radio station then get in touch with them. They won’t bite and for aspiring broadcasters & journalists it can be a good learning experience as well as good for the soul.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.