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Ashley Frazer

Early in 2018, I was looking around for a charity that I could volunteer some time to. I had worked with IAM in Aylesbury for some years but I was looking for a change. It's my submission that if everyone volunteered an hour or so every week the world would be a much better place. I remember saying to my family that I would be useless as a hospital visitor because I would not really know how to interact with the patients.

I came across SMHR's website and thought - yes I could do that (I have worked on the fringes of TV for a number of years - mostly in the IT handling of movies and commercials). I thought I could maybe be some type of technical resource. I filled in the online form and was invited for an interview at which it was suggested I could work as a producer on a request show. Request shows are live every weekday and consist of a presenter assisted by one or two producers. After the various checks we have to do were completed, I joined SMHR in June 2018 as a producer on the Friday night request show with Simon Davidge (8PM until 10PM). I had expected to be making the tea and maybe be allowed to get some of the CDs and records out of the library for Simon to play. I was wrong on two counts. 1) The station itself has no tea making facilities 2) On the first show Simon invited me into the studio (I was thrilled to sit in and watch). Then Simon brought up the mikes, introduced the show and said "and with me in the studio are my two producers" then he looked at me and I had to say something live on air! Cue rabbit in the headlights! Literally thrown in at the deep end. I managed to splutter out my name (the sound was like a squeak). Simon (and Phil Hearne - the other producer) quickly made me feel at home and we played the requests and talked about all sorts of things from space to football to St Bernard dogs! It is my ambition / mission to get the ISS to send us a request on air.

The biggest surprise is that although the radio side is very interesting, I think one of the rewarding parts is what we do in preparation for the show. Each Friday we go to a different ward and ask the patients, relatives and staff (in fact anyone we come across) if they would like a request played on the show. For some patients we may be the only visitors they see that day and although we spend only a few minutes I think we make a real difference. I was wrong about not being able to talk to patients!

After six months I started my technical training under the excellent guidance of Phil Hearne. I took my exam (a two-hour show where I had to press all the buttons in the right order and do the talking (think rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time!) under the watchful eye of Mike Oxlade the stations Programme Controller) in January 2019. When you see the Alice desks, they look quite daunting but after a while it's just like operating a big music centre (what we had before we had streaming services and smartphones). The next step in the process will be to take responsibility for a show. This will create openings for new producers - could that be you? It would be great to hear from you. Have fun, remember SMHR is all about the patients, their relatives and the hospital staff but you can listen to use anywhere in the world via the Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio app (which you can download on iOS or Android for free from any app store).