Heartbeat Radio 1982-83 ~

a hive of activity, pre-launch

 

Volunteers Bob and Annie sorting through some of the thousands of LPs and singles donated by the people of Tameside through our record appeal.

Heartbeat sticker - white bckground Web Bob & Annie

 

LOCAL newspaper reporter Mike Wallbank was one of an initial team of volunteers who helped to launch Tameside's hospital broadcasting service.

 

Following months of research and discussions with the health authority and hospital management in late 1981-early 1982, tentative plans for the radio project  began to take shape.

 

The project co-ordinator was Joan Ryan,  the Voluntary Services Officer (VSO) based at the hospital.

 

On 18 May 1982 Joan arranged a public meeting at Ashton Town Hall the launchpad for 'Radio Tameside' -  the project's working title.

 

Mike recalls: "A few weeks earlier my paper, The Reporter had published a story appealing for volunteers - and inviting anyone interested to go along to the meeting.

 

" I had had an insight into the world of hospital radio a year or so earlier when I had written a feature about the long-established hospital broadcasting service at North Manchester General Hospital, Crumpsall.  

 

"The dedication and commitment of the volunteers, many of whom had been working at the station for 20 years left a lasting impression."

 

The gathering at Ashton Town Hall  included people of a fairly wide age range and from many walks of life who, in many cases, had already expressedtheir desire to be involved, after reading the story in the paper.

 

Joan set out a priority list of tasks which had to be completed  in order to achieve the goal of a hospital radio station.

 

The hospital would provide the premises - the rest was up to us.

 

Skills would be pooled, sub groups formed and tasks assigned. The starting pistol had been fired for what would be 16 months of frantic fund-raising and studio building.

 

The health authority had offered the use of a basement at the hospital and the services of its clerk of works to oversee its conversion.  Teams of volunteers designed the layout for what would become the studio, admin area and record library and much hard graft followed, turning those carefully drawn plans into the hospital's very own  radio station.

 

The project needed a name and image which would capture the public's imagination and win their support.

 

HEARTBEAT RADIO was born - and now it was time to get the show on the road!

 

"From what I can recall, the amount we had to raise to build and equip the studios was in the region of £15,000," says Mike.  "The funds came through a multitude of sources but ultimately most, if not all, came from the public of Tameside."

 

Generous donations came in from organisations like the Hospital League of Friends and the Rotary clubs of Tameside and there were also many wild and wacky fundraising events by our own volunteers including a children's fancy dress disco dancing marathon at Hyde Town Hall,  an all-weekend sponsored mop-a-thon by the hospital cleaning staff (The Domestics) and the never-to- be-forgotten Stalybridge street climb - plus pub crawls, street collections and our very first roadshows.

 

One of the earliest was at the 1982 Tameside Canals Festival, long before Portland Basin was the leading visitor attraction it is today.

 

By the late summer of 1983 presenter auditions were being held to choose the on-air team for the station's launch.

 

Finally, the reward for everyone's efforts came to fruition. The big date was announced: Saturday 22 October would be our first day on air, broadcasting via an internal 'inductive loop' aerial

system on 312 metres Medium Wave, or as we say. in new money, 963KHz AM.

 

At 10am  Heartbeat Radio went on air for the very first time with a programme called - what else! Good Morning Tameside, presented by Geoff Heath.

 

The first record was the current  No. 2 chart record They Don't Know, Tracey Ullman's cover version of a song written by Kirsty MacColl. (Culture Club were at No. 1 with Karma Chameleon!)

 

For those of us involved in the launch, who were now responsible for maintaining a regular programme schedule on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesday evenings (eventually to be extended

throughout the week), life would never be the same again.

 

The rest, as they say, is history... Heartbeat Radio evolved into 8 Towns Radio and by the end of the decade was a thriving volunteer service providing daily programmes of music and chat,

quizzes and competitions, local news and sport... and much more besides!

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