Gemma Duignan has been a volunteer at Broadgreen Hospital Radio in Liverpool since June 2010. She fits in her volunteering around her busy final year at university and her part-time job. Gemma told me about her experience on hospital radio and her top tips on why people should get involved.
“I’ve always been interested in radio and I worked at my local radio station for a couple of weeks when I was 15. That is where my passion came from. I thought I should go back to my roots a little bit. My dad is a social worker and my mum is a nurse and I wasn’t sure whether going into the media would benefit anyone but I felt I could do this for other people. With hospital radio you do feel like you’re benefiting people.”
Gemma does a four hour stint on a Monday afternoon straight after her day at university and she volunteers at the weekend. At the station Gemma has a production role and she described what she has learnt.
“At hospital radio I have learnt quite a lot of practical skills. I’ve learnt how to produce shows, write scripts for shows (though that was after a year of working there). I’ve learnt how to edit vox pops, edit soundbites and record vox pops going out to the wards. I’ve also learnt a lot about music. If you’re going out onto the wards and there is an old lady asking for Roy Orbison’s song ‘Crying’, don’t play it because it will make her cry. You have to be very careful with what you play but it is good to learn for the future. You meet so many nice people that are thankful for you being there, and you get to meet your audience. I get to do that even though I’m only a producer’.
Gemma told me that one of the best experiences is when she goes up to the hospital wards to collect requests from the patients.
“Going out onto the wards gives the station a presence and it’s nice because you get to meet your audience. One of my best requests was from a patient who was bed bound but he always asked for an Elvis song. He’d say that he wanted to hear something that he could dance too.”
Gemma has been interested in pursuing a career in the media for a long time. She enjoys production and is doing a television production course at university. I asked her whether she thought her experience will help her find a media job.
“I didn’t really see hospital radio as a way of getting a career but I saw it as a way of developing my production skills. It was something for me that was a hobby as well as a career. Everytime I opened a book about how to get a job in the media or read an interview with presenters about how to get in, they said the best thing to do was hospital radio. You’ve got to start off from the bottom and make cups of tea, photocopy things, run around for people. You’ve got to show that you’re so passionate about something that you’ll start from the bottom. A lot of people think that working at the station will give them a career in radio. They thought it would add to their demo, which they could send to radio stations, and that they’d be asked to be a presenter. But they could have gone on a course to do that so it was nice to see them doing it for a good cause.”
After spending a year and a half at a hospital radio station, Gemma gave this advice to anybody who is thinking of joining a station.