Radio star. . . Bryan Blanchard has hosted Hospital FM radio for 30 years. PHOTO: SHELLEY INON

by Shelley Inon

For 32 years, South Canterbury voices have been hitting the airwaves endeavouring to keep hospital patients and other local people entertained, but a shortage of presenters is posing a problem.

Over the last three years, four of the radio station’s much-loved volunteer presenters had died, leaving vacant time slots, radio host Bryan Blanchard said.

Mr Blanchard has entertained the hospital’s patients since 1991. He thought it was a commitment, but listeners always made things worthwhile by finding many ways to thank them.

One example was a letter to the editor he had found in a local paper , thanking them for their generous service.

He said there were two times they had been unable to go on air computer kept generating songs in their absence.

Mr Blanchard had been heartened by all of the comments they had received from patients tuned in to the frequency missed the voices in between the music.

Before playing a record, he said they often gave a story about where they found it.

“People contacted us to say they’d missed that.”

The radio station played music from the 1920s through to the 1970s.

“It is a nostalgia station.”

While some of the volunteers had been new to live broadcast, one was Allan Stewart, a former announcer at Radio New Zealand.

“He was a perfectionist.”

Mr Blanchard had fond memories at the station. He remembered listening to Hospital FM one night when Mr Stewart was struggling to get a CD on.

“He came back to say that he was trying to put one CD in on top of another one.”

Doors will open . . . Hospital FM radio needs disk jockeys.

Ron Heney had been the mastermind of Hospital FM, starting it in 1989 after seeing a similar station on his travels through Europe.

The station had been “in house” at Timaru Hospital until 1999, allowing patients to access the radio with their headphones “through the wall”.

He said those were no longer there as they had been “done away with” when the hospital was renovated.

If people wanted to give it a go, but were worried about nerves, Mr Blanchard reassured them that he, too, had been nervous when he first started, but “you soon get over it”.

People were quick to ring and ask you to put on a certain record, or tell you that you are doing well.

Mr Blanchard wanted to express how grateful Hospital FM radio was to hospital staff and their listeners.

The station is transmitted on FM radio. The remaining three frequencies are in Timaru south (88.0FM), Timaru north (107.5 FM), and Geraldine (107.1 FM).

If you would like more information about volunteering with Hospital FM contact Bryan Blanchard on (03) 686 2269.