It was in 1963 that a small group met in the St Helen Auckland Community Centre and heard about hospital broadcasting for the first time. They listened to a local resident, Mr Jim Wild, describe how the idea had achieved success in other parts of the country and how, he hoped, it could be established in South West Durham Hospitals.
As a result of his enthusiasm and technical skill, the group backed a limited service from his studio workshop in Dale Street to the local Tindale Crescent Hospital. The first broadcast was a relay in 1963 of the Old Time Dance in the Community Centre to the hospital patients.
The group had hopes of extending the service to the other hospitals in the area, but financial, technical and administrative difficulties did not make this possible, and so it was restricted to the one hospital for many years. Expansion Eventually the question of expansion was considered again in 1973, and the secretary, Mrs. Nellie Bowser, convened meetings in November that year.
In April, 1974, a steering committee was formed and the Tindale Crescent HBS gave way to the South West Durham Hospitals Broadcasting Service. A link was forged with the Dryburn Hospital Broadcast Service at Durham that year and the cost of the Post Office land line was met by the League of Friends of South West Durham Hospitals in 1974. An executive committee was formed to manage the service.
This executive was formed from representatives of Bishop Auckland district organisations, such as the local Inner Wheel Club, the RAFA Club, the Amateur Operatic Society and the Lions Club. The Dryburn HBS informed the new committee that the Durham Area Health Authority was willing to pay for rental of the trunk lines involved, and so from December 1974, the Bishop Auckland General Hospital (Initially 4 wards) and Tindale Crescent Hospital were linked to Dryburn and Mr. Wild’s local studio for a couple of hours every Sunday.
For the next four years the committee concentrated on finding funds for major capital outlay needed to equip a modern radio unit within the Bishop Auckland General Hospital complex. In this they were helped by numerous local organisations in a most generous way, although some of the money had also to go on maintaining the limited service available.
The committee also launched an appeal in 1975 for new and used records, cassettes and blank tapes to start a music library, and there was a magnificent response both from organisations and individuals.
The next step was the location and building of a studio, and an original proposal to have this in the old maternity block eventually gave way to an ideal situation in the former nurses home in Escomb Road.
The hospital authorities not only provided the accommodation, but also refurbished the premises so that the compact unit of two studios, a lounge, record library and kitchen attracted praise from professional broadcasters across the region. As money came in from various sources, it was spent on the building and purchase of equipment, and in this respect Mr. Wild continued to play a vital role. Auckland Radio took the air after the official opening on October 14 1978, by Mrs Todd, of Wolsingham, chairman of the Durham Area Health Authority.
End of an Era
Auckland Radio changed dramatically since its opening in 1978, with many trust and hospital changes.
In 2000 the hospital trust demolished our building and housed us in temporary premises. During this time, our broadcasts to Tindale Crescent Hospital ceased due to its closure, but we gained a new hospital which had just been rebuilt. The Weardale Community Hospital, 20 miles away, opened its doors in March 2002 and Auckland Radio was there to provide programmes to the 20 bed long stay unit.
On July 11th 2002, Auckland Radio relauched and became known as Auckland Hospital Radio and started broadcasting to the brand new Bishop Auckland General Hospital via the Patientline system. With the advent of new technology and increased competition, the request show became the flag ship programme. For the first time in many years the station formed request show teams.
At a prestigious Hospital Radio Awards ceremony in 2003, Auckland Hospital Radio was voted UK Station of the Year 2003. The award made all the hard working volunteers very proud of their achievement. As a result of our award, more areas of the hospital wanted to tune into Auckland Hospital Radio so the service was expanded to all outpatient waiting areas and the Chimney’s Restaurant. Technology also allowed any member of hospital staff to tune into the service via their computer. At the end of 2004, Auckland Hospital Radio forged a link with Bay Trust Radio (formerly Kendal Hospital Radio). Each weekend, the 2 services merged at specific times. The programmes continue to be transmitted live from each respective studio and are even branded locally.
On 8th July 2005, Auckland Hospital Radio began broadcasting live video pictures from the studios so for the first time patients could see the presenters on their patientline screens while the programmes were being transmitted. The pictures were only intended to be transmitted for the duration of our 60 Hour marathon, but had such a good response from staff and patients alike, Patientline requested that we maintain the live video feed.
Responding to listener demand, Auckland Hospital Radio launched Auckland Gold on patientline channel 7. It offers speech, drama and special broadcasts 24 hours a day.
In 2007 Auckland Hospital Radio were granted money from the National Lottery to buy a new studio mixing desk. The old mixing desk had served the station for the past 5 years but was beginning to fail. A full studio refit took place with the help of Psquared and the station is now fully equipped for the challenges of the future.
In 2008 we celebrated our 30th birthday with a bang. We held the biggest marathon broadcast ever and invited station founder Jim Wild to cut the 30th birthday cake in front of a large audience of supporters and volunteers. 2008 also saw the launch of a brand new jingles package.
We made significant investment in outside broadcasting equipment which allowed us to broadcast several concerts and outside events which proved very popular with the patients.
Merger with Darlington Hospital Radio
In 2014, Darlington Hospital Radio temporarily moved in with Auckland Hospital Radio due to a refurbishment in the area where their studios were based. The two stations still operated as separate charities and broadcast their own programme schedule, albeit from a single studio in Bishop Auckland Hospital.
This arrangement become longer term than originally anticipated and in 2017 it was decided to merge the two stations and join forces. The station needed a new name to reflect the new service.
A public competition was held to choose the a name. 72 entries were received and the winner, John Gaines put forward the name of “Prince Bishops Hospital Radio”.
A small room was secured at Darlington Memorial Hospital to act as a base for request collectors and even present programmes from the Darlington site.
In 2018 we will celebrate 40 years of Hospital Broadcasting in Bishop Auckland. In this year we will complete our rebrand from Auckland Hospital Radio / Radio Skerne to Prince Bishops Hospital Radio. This will include a new station sound and jingle package, new promotional material and sponsor package.
We will fully refit our studio facilities at Bishop Auckland Hospital and open a second studio at Darlington Memorial Hospital.
In addition to our live audio stream, all of our programmes will be available as a listen again feature on our website and inside the hospitals using public Wi-Fi.
Our aim is to recruit more volunteers to work in both hospitals to further increase the amount of live broadcasts and request shows we do each week.